IT’S taken 10 years, countless local volunteers and thousands of dollars, but the Girgarre-Stanhope Rail Trail has entered the final stretch.
And with weather, funding and a worldwide viral pandemic permitting, the large-scale project is estimated to be completed by the end of 2021.
Initially thought up as a pipedream by a few Girgarre locals looking to restore the old railway station more than a decade ago, it has since transformed into an all-encompassing effort to bridge the gap between two communities.
Girgarre-Stanhope Rail Trail Committee secretary Sandra McDonald, who has been involved in the project for seven years, said it was a strange feeling to see the end in sight.
“The first two stages have been completed, and that’s in Girgarre itself in a small circuit in the township. And then it extends south along the old rail line as far as Mason Rd which is probably 2km long,” she said.
“By the end of 2021 we should be finished. That’s what we’re aiming for.”
Estimated to run over 6km once completed, the trail starts in Progress Park in Girgarre and will go all the way into Stanhope.
Ms McDonald said it would benefit both towns in a variety of different ways.
“I think it’s going to firstly create a safe pathway for people to exercise on … and then hopefully when COVID-19 is over, it’s going to be good for tourism too,” she said.
“We’re also building a botanic garden in Girgarre and I think it will complement that well.
“It will be a green corridor. The aesthetics will be a vast improvement on what’s already there. Environmentally, it’s going to be a big plus.
“The section that’s open now is really quite well used by locals so I think potentially there will be a lot of usage.”
On the agenda for phases three and four are the refencing of the trail’s boundary, direct seeding of indigenous plants and surfacing the pathway with gravel.
Ms McDonald said the project had been kept afloat from several grants and sponsorships — including a $4000 grant awarded by Campaspe Shire Council last week.
“We’ve had sponsorships from various organisations within the community. And one of the reasons we resurrected the Stanhope Girgarre Landcare group was to access funding,” she said.
“Through that we applied for a VicTrack Landcare grant to do all of the fencing and the vegetation. So that’s been substantial.”
While the steady flow of funding is more than appreciated, she said all the money in the world would be useless without the countless volunteers who have donated their time to see the rail trail come to life.
“Really, it’s been all voluntary up until stages three and four. We had a local fellow who does farm work who carted our gravel for nothing, and the locals spread it. We haven’t paid any contractors to do the work.
“We’ve got a really hardcore group of volunteers so it’s not difficult to get a working bee together and get things done.”
If you are interested in volunteering for the Girgaree-Stanhope Rail Trail, contact Sandra McDonald on 0418 449 192
More from the Kyabram Free Press: