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Rail trail at the crossroads

 

THE South Gippsland Shire Council was asked to consider taking over the management of the Great Southern Rail Trail (GSRT) at last Wednesday’s community presentation session.

The GSRT committee of management will step down at the end of its current term, which has been extended to June this year.

Of the 17 rail trails in Victoria, 15 are managed by local councils. The GSRT and the Grand Ridge Rail Trail are the only two managed by volunteers.

Committee secretary Robert Knight said he and fellow members are excited about what they have achieved with the trail.

“We have realised the job is a big one, beyond the capacity of a volunteer group to continue to manage,” he said.

Mr Knight said the committee was on call 365 days a year and the work had become onerous since the trail was completed in 2016.

“We believe council is the appropriate body to take over the rail trail’s management. Current committee members could become ‘friends’ of the trail at the end of their term,” he said.

Mr Knight said the reason a new committee hasn’t been appointed is because it was too difficult to find people with the required skills.

“We have tried. The problem with this sort of project is committee members end up becoming burnt out. Time is of the essence,” he said.

“Council has the skills and is already heavily involved.”

The cost to maintain the rail trail’s 77 kilometres is around $120,000 per year, plus additional capital works of around $30,000 annually.

Works are financed by a fund inherited by the committee and council’s contribution of $60,000 per year.

It also receives around $37,000 annually from licences along the trail, however the committee’s cash reserve will be mostly used by the time of handover.

“The role of maintaining this $6 million asset is too much for a volunteer committee,” Mr Knight said.

Cr Jeremy Rich asked why a long term plan for the management of the rail trail was not put in place.

Committee president Neville Pulham said the first committee of management fell away after six years.

“In the next four years, we struggled to get enough people. The current committee has been the most effective and dedicated,” he said.

“It has become apparent there are less and less people available to sit on the committee.”

Cr Meg Edwards said the committee model may not be attractive to people willing to volunteer to help maintain the rail trail.

She said if council resolved to take over the management of the trail, an advisory group may be more acceptable.

Mr Knight said there is potential to develop the Friends of the Rail Trail group further.

“That is a resource that needs to be tapped into,” he said.

Where to: Great Southern Rail Trail committee of management president Neville Pulham, South Gippsland Shire Council mayor Cr Ray Argento and committee secretary Robert Knight discuss the future of the trail at last Wednesday’s community presentation session.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=21233

Posted by on Apr 26 2017. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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