Thousands of dollars in rail trail damage

THOUSANDS of dollars in damage has been caused to the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail in what has been described as an act of vandalism.

The trail was damaged last week after a large herd of cattle was illegally moved through the area between Two Mile Crossing east of Heyfield and McKinnons Rd, Tinamba.

The four kilometre section of track cost $30,000 to build and was funded by the Wellington Shire Council, the Bendigo Bank Heyfield and the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail committee.

Rail trail president Helen Hoppner said the damage was heartbreaking as so much time and effort had been contributed by multiple parties to complete the trail.

On Saturday, a group of cyclists reported they had to dismount their bikes because there was significant damage to the track,” Ms Hoppner said.

“We sat back when the trail was finished and thought ‘yes, it’s all done’, and now this has happened.”

Ms Hoppner said a safety chain had also been removed at the Traralgon end of the new section of trail, which threatened the safety and wellbeing of trail users.

The cost of repairing the damage is yet to be determined, but Ms Hoppner estimates it will be significant.

“Just this section cost $30,000 to build and we don’t have ongoing money for maintenance like this,” Ms Hoppner said.

“We are now seeing huge groups coming through the area and local businesses are suffering from the damage as people aren’t buying or hiring equipment to use the track.

“As the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail committee are volunteers and have no funds to repair the damage, the trail may have to be closed temporarily.”

Ms Hoppner said the latest damage was not an isolated incident, with damage caused by horses in previous weeks.

“The damage caused by horses along the whole trail over the wetter months has also been significant and we urge responsible horse owners to keep off the formed track as per signs displayed along the full length of the trail,” she said.

The committee is now faced with the huge task of finding money to repair the trail.

To report vandalism or suspicious activity, phone the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail on 5148 9214.