A vital section of a proposed rail trail extension in north-eastern Tasmania is open for community comment until 14th September.
The City of Launceston is inviting comment on a development application for the 14km section that sits within its local government area, between Wyena and Lilydale Falls Reserve.
It’s part of a total proposed extension of 41km, with the neighbouring Dorset Council approving its 27km section from Wyena to Scottsdale early last year.
Dorset Mayor Greg Howard said the Wyena to Lilydale Falls section was essential for the extension to proceed, building on the original 26km trail built a decade ago.
He said extending the trail to Lilydale falls not only provided sufficient length and attractions to attract interstate and overseas visitors. It also ensured there was a major destination at each trail head – Scottsdale in the east and Lilydale Falls at the western end.
“Having that total of 68km means there’s two, maybe three, days of riding because there’s a couple of towns, there’s a winery, a lavender farm. There’s plenty to have a look at along the way,” he said.
“While the existing trail is used by locals and visitors to the nearby Derby mountain bike trails, we need all of that Stage 2 extension to make it a viable tourism opportunity for interstate and international visitors.
“In that section you have the lavender farm, you’ve got wineries and an 800m long tunnel you ride through.
“Lilydale Falls itself is spectacular and from there you’re only a kilometre and a half from the Lilydale township via the road – with accommodation, cafés and pubs.”
Regular train services between Scottsdale and Launceston ended in 2005 and the original section of rail trail was constructed in 2012 by volunteers, funded by selling the rails and sleepers made available by the Tasmanian rail authority, TasRail.
In 2014, the Federal Government announced $1.47 million in funding for the Stage 2 extension but the offer lapsed while the project was stalled by challenges from opponents.
The funding was reinstated in 2019, this time without a deadline and without requirements for financial contributions from Dorset Council, and in February 2020 the council resolved to proceed with the Stage 2 extension.
The development application for the Launceston council area was advertised just weeks before Tasmania’s local government elections in October, and the proposal is facing opposition from the Launceston & North East Railways group, which is pushing for a heritage railway along the corridor.
Cr Howard is contesting the October elections, seeking a third term as Mayor to deal with “unfinished business”, including taking the Stage 2 extension to fruition.