The five year O'Keefe Rail Trail funded project nears an end, as the new section of the trail opened for public use on 15th May. The rail trail is now 50km in length.
Beginning in July 2010, this project had two basic aims of building a new 30km section from Axedale to Heathcote plus upgrading some elements of the aging 17 year old Bendigo to Axedale section. With the last of the new trail bridges in place, and sections of trail alignment construction completed in the Knowsley area, the day had arrived to take down the trail restriction barriers.
This trail's new status would not have been achieved from a purely engineering perspective, without the support of farmers who own sections of the former railway reserve in the Knowsley area. Also other land managers, such as DELWP, Goulburn Murray Water, VicRoads, were also involved and who sought the means to achieve positive outcomes for this trail. Change of land ownership of the former railway line presented additional challenges for the project manager, the City of Greater Bendigo Council, as well as the community group Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail who assisted Council throughout the project.
Alerted by the 'grapevine' news that this now 50km trail was open for use, Friends of the Bendigo Kilmore Rail Trail report that users have been quick to seize the opportunity to explore, test physical fitness, and enjoy the ever changing landscape through which this trail transverses. Passing through Grey Box and Ironbark forests with sightings of wallabies and kangaroos, over natural waterway environments via 17 trail bridges, crossing Lake Eppalock via a causeway, linking with farm lands and small urban communities, or taking a rest stop at a cafe-pubs-tavern, are just some of the points of interest being experienced along Victoria's latest continuous rail trail.
While some final elements and fine tuning of the trail are still occurring by Council and the Friends group, an official opening of the new O'Keefe Rail Trail is being planned for later in 2015.
A more detailed account of the developments is in the winter issue of Rail Trail Connections for finiancial members of Rail Trails Australia