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Grampians Rail Trail Flood work repairs completed

Updated July 5 2023 - 8:30pm, first published July 4 2023 - 3:00pm
Repairs have now been completed thanks to a community grant. Picture supplied.
Repairs have now been completed thanks to a community grant. Picture supplied.

The Grampians Rail Trail has a new lease of life after the completion of much needed repair works.

A community grant from Stawell Gold Mines allowed the Friends of the Grampians Rail Trail to add a concrete floodways, a track retaining walls, surfacing and a raised section of the track at Illawarra Road to fix the flood damage.

The Grampians Rail Trail was impacted by the flooding events of 2022, which damaged the section that went through the wetland near Lake Lonsdale, and led to the closure of the trail.

Almost a kilometer of the trail was under water and the lowest sections bore the brunt of the damage as the flood water eroded the track.

The trail was eroded following the flood events of 2022. Picture supplied.
The trail was eroded following the flood events of 2022. Picture supplied.

Friends of the Grampians Rail Trail is a not-for-profit community group funding, maintaining and operating this popular community infrastructure.

Project coordinator John Pye said the Grampians Rail Trail were the only community operated rail trail group which relied on the support from organisations such as Stawell Gold Mines and and the work of volunteers.

"We hope to extend it to Halls Gap creating an iconic Rail Trail that will enhance the visitor experience in the Grampians and deliver a tourist boom for Stawell," he said.

Friends of Grampians Rail Trail has a volunteer membership with a diversity of skills and backgrounds and welcomes interested individuals.

The Grampians Rail Trail follows the historic Heatherlie Rail Line that was used from 1882 to 1949 to transport sandstone from Heatherlie Quarry in the Grampians to Stawell, for historic buildings such as the Court House, and on to Melbourne for public buildings such as Parliament House and the State Library.

The trail starts on the outskirts of Stawell on the Grampians Rd and goes 11km off-road through reserves, forest and wetlands to Lake Lonsdale.

Rail Trails Australia has the trail featured on its website with maps and descriptions.

Grampains Rail Trail began as a Stawell Secondary College student led project where 90 per cent of the construction was completed by 2012 which then transitioned to a community run group in 2017.

Powercor provided $38,000 to Stawell Secondary College to begin the project with Year 9 students constructing most of the 11 km trail. Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) and other students were also engaged throughout the project.

From 2002 to 2012 more than 350 students were a part of the project.

Students organised permits, employed and supervised contractors, built four bridges including a 16m single span steel bridge and an 80m boardwalk bridge across a swamp.

Students worked in small groups, ran the program, made decisions on how and where money was spent, did the on-ground work, and became the focus of research projects and amongst the many accolades won a Worksafe Award.

From $78,000 in grants the students constructed a trail valued in excess of half a million dollars.

Following the retirement of teacher John Pye in 2012, progress has been held up by how the trail would be managed and by whom.

Management and licensing remained a 'road-block' for many years until a community group 'Friends of the Grampians Rail Trail' took on the task.

John Pye said it was the Rail Trail was entirely managed, maintained, licensed and developed by a community group.

" All others are run by councils and some in conjunction with Department of Environment, Lands, Water, Environment and Planning," he said.

"We are unique."

Trail maps can be found at: www.railtrails.org.au following the links to "Grampians Rail Trail".

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