21 October 2022

Bombala precinct cycleway opening paves way for Australia's greatest rail trail

| Edwina Mason
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Bombala’s Platypus Reserve is expected to act as a huge drawcard for visitors to the town with the newly-opened Bombala Precinct Cycle Trail in their sights. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

A small ceremony in the small settlement of Bombala last week has symbolically paved the way for a major tourism attraction planned for the Snowy Monaro region.

Attended by local and state government officials, the gathering marked the official opening of the Bombala Precinct Cycle Trail, the gateway to what many hope will be the start – or finish – to Australia’s greatest rail trail.

The ceremony also marked a significant milestone, or kilometre mark, in a proposal that’s been on the table in the region since 2015, when cycle tourism was just starting to make inroads in regional Australia’s hearts and minds.

Using the past with the future in mind, the very hotly-anticipated 214-kilometre Monaro Rail Trail makes use of a redundant rail line which runs from Queanbeyan to Bombala which, after rehabilitation and resurfacing, will eventually allow people of all ages and abilities to cycle, walk and run.

READ ALSO Monaro Rail Trail agreement signed but fight for funding just beginning

The cycle trail is seen to be a tourism undertaking which preserves Monaro’s rich rail heritage – which dates back to 1888 – and is exemplified through the state’s railway history museum at Cooma Railway Station.

What was for years the gateway to the state’s alpine region in the winter months, is now expected to attract people to the region in seasons outside of the winter sports season with the peak cycle season in autumn.

Snowy Monaro Regional Council’s mayor Narelle Davis and councillor Bob Stewart joined Member for Eden-Monaro and Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, Kristy McBain to mark the opening last week.

Monaro Rail Trail committee member Frank Bakker shakes hands with Snowy Monaro Regional Council CEO Peter Bascombe as the Bombala Precinct Cycle Trail is officially opened. The ceremony was also attended by SMC economic development officer Mark Adams (far left), Member for Eden-Monaro and Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, Kristy McBain (second from right) and SMC mayor Narelle Davis (right). Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

For visitors to the community that languidly put down roots alongside the Bombala River the Bombala Precinct Cycle Trail similarly winds through the village.

Like most towns and villages along the route – including Michelago, Bredbo, Cooma and Nimmitabel – the stay, eat and play tourism opportunities in Bombala are expected to flourish.

The trail leads cyclists and walkers around the town to view local attractions and points of interest, including the river, historic sites, and the lookout – thanks to the installation of trail markers and new wayfinding signs.

There’s the elusive platypus in the Bombala River, Endeavour Reserve and Bombala lookout, Lavender House, Bombala’s historic Engine and Machinary Shed and upgraded Ginger Leigh playground.

The town map at the Bombala River has received an upgrade, with a new sign also to be erected at the Bombala Visitor Centre. These new signs detail the trails on offer in the Bombala precinct.

The project has created a safe all-ability bike and walking path around Bombala which also provides a safe and convenient means for locals to move around and within the town.

Precinct cycle trails are ribs off the future potential Monaro Rail Trail spine designed to showcase local attractions, with the Bombala Precinct Cycle Trail serving as an added attraction to the southern trailhead.

READ ALSO Wallaroo Brigade members honoured for life-saving action on Monaro Highway

And it’s all thanks to the 2021 Boco Rock Community Enhancement Fund.

Boco Rock Wind Farm is a wind farm located 30 kilometres north of Bombala in the Snowy Mountains region.

Currently stage one of the wind farm consists of 67 turbines, which have been operating since 2015, generating 113 MW of renewable energy.

The project received DA approval from the NSW Government in 2010 for up to 122 turbines.

The Boco Rock Wind Farm Community Fund will function for the life of the wind farm and is managed by a committee comprising community representatives, council representatives and a wind farm representative.

With an annual contribution of around $77,500 available to the pre-merged former Bombala Shore Council and $90,000 for Cooma Shire Council – now both merged under Snowy Monaro Regional Council – the committee awarded $53,859 to Monaro Rail Trail Inc for the development of the Bombala Precinct Cycle Trail.

Thanks were extended to the project manager Frank Bakker together with Dave Byrne and other members of Monaro Rail Trail Incorporated for their work.

2022 Monaro Rail Trail Timeline

January 2022 – Memorandum of understanding signed between the Monaro Rail Trail Inc (MRT), Snowy Monaro Regional Council and the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.

April 2022 – Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain announced the Labor government would commit $1 million to begin works on the Monaro Rail Trail with initial works to focus on the Bombala to Jincumbilly phase of the project.

August 2022 – The successful passage of the Transport Administration Amendment (Rail Trails) Bill 2022 in the NSW Lower House opened the door to the development of rail trails by removing the need for each rail trail proposal to have a separate act of parliament and enabling the Minister for Regional Transport to allow derelict tracks to be converted into a rail trail for ‘recreation, tourism or related purposes’.

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