David Bearup finds Tasmanian community case study for rail trail

RAIL TRAIL: Resident David Bearup wants to see more community support for rail trail in Guyra. He believes a rail trail would help to boost the local economy and encourage tourists to town. Photo: Rachel Baxter.

RAIL TRAIL: Resident David Bearup wants to see more community support for rail trail in Guyra. He believes a rail trail would help to boost the local economy and encourage tourists to town. Photo: Rachel Baxter.

It’s the debate that’s dividing our community.

But David Bearup said it’s time to think seriously about the benefits a rail trail would have for Guyra and the wider region.

Mr Bearup said his son Greg, who is an avid cyclist, recently discovered the benefits a mountain bike trail has had for the Tasmanian community of Dorset.

He believes their story provides a case study to see possible benefits for Guyra.

“It’s an area a bit like Guyra – slightly isolated,” he said.

“They got very good federal and state funding ... and they are now getting 50,000 visitors a year, 70 per cent of whom are coming from the mainland.

“The economic benefit is huge for them – it’s been miles beyond their expectations.”

However, not all residents in Dorset have been happy to lose their heritage rail.

Dorset Council General Manager Tim Watson, who had been involved in the North East rail trail project from its inception, said those opposed were in fear of change. 

“… Rail trails deliver significant economic benefits to regional communities and do not adversely impact upon adjoining agricultural enterprises,” he said in a letter to Fairfax Media last month.

“The real issue isn’t the merit or otherwise of the rail trail, it’s about change, fear of change and letting go of the past.”

But change is needed if we want to move forward into a prosperous future, Mr Bearup said.

He said the idea broadens the variety for cyclists with varying endurance.

The project is expected to cost around $1.3 million with the state government chipping in $800,000 and council funding the rest.

Dorset is also conducting an independent third party assessment of a heritage rail service on the North East rail trail corridor – with construction of a rail trail to commence next year.

The state government and the council will jointly fund the study before a development goes ahead, with the proposed bike track causing significant opposition.

Back in Guyra, Save the Great Northern Rail Group continue to argue against the concept of a rail trail.

The group say that “it [the track] is the historic Great Northern Railway and it’s a national asset”. 

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