Trail opens to traffic

May 19, 2023 BY

On track: Cyclists Jeff Rootes, Gary Bunn, and Rob Loveband travel over the new bridge which was funded by Community Bank Buninyong. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

WALKERS, runners, and cyclists now have access to a linking pathway between Woowookarung Regional Park and Recreation Road in Mount Clear.

The section of the Buninyong Rail Trail on the 55 Recreation Road property is now open and saw between 60 and 70 users last Saturday alone.

Friends of Canadian Corridor volunteers have led the affectionately known “Bunny Trail” project, aiming to make the track along the historic train line accessible.

Although there’s lots more work to be done, secretary Jeff Rootes said this is a major milestone.

“The site before had no access, and was an abandoned railway embankment,” he said.

“We’ve put a new bridge in, cleaned the trail, and we’ve connected it to the park through the generosity of a local landholder who has provided 40 metres of trail across her property.

“The bridge, picnic table and the bike hangers are all done, and people can walk or ride through to their heart’s content.

“Although we have the brand-new safe bridge, you can still see the remnants of the 1890 rail bridge.

“This first part of the trail is accessible for most people. We’re not disability compliant yet, but we hope to get there.”

Project costs sit at about $50,000, with $34,000 from Community Bank Buninyong, $10,000 put in by FOCC, and $6000 from a State Living Local grant.

More trail topping is to be added, alongside drainage works, signage, and the creation of a proper entryway.

Formerly owned by the Department of Education, the site was purchased by the City of Ballarat following lobbying by FOCC, local MP Michaela Settle, and the backing of Community Bank Buninyong.

Trail users so far have included the University of the Third Age, Federation University recreational infrastructure students, and individuals like local Rod Loveband.

Mr Loveband expects the pathway will be enjoyed each day by people of all ages.

“I live near Canadian, and I used to work at Mount Clear College,” he said. “When I would walk to work, it was such a long way, because I had to go all the way around the park.

“The new trail is such a great access point for students and staff living in the Canadian area who can now ride or walk directly to the school.”

Mr Rootes said the section of path creates another link in what will be an even broader recreation network.

“You can now start at Recreation Road and walk or ride all the way to Ballarat Station on a route that follows the old Bunny Railway Line,” he said.

“Later this year, we’ll be talking to council about putting signage along the trail so people can follow it, and next year’s job is to mark the trail to Buninyong.

“When we’ve finished, there will be a marked trail from Ballarat Station, via the old railway line, all the way to Buninyong. Most of it’s there, it’s just connecting the dots.”