A Hilltops-based community group is calling for donations to push the Boorowa-Galong Rail Trail project full steam ahead to the next step.
Treasurer of Boorowa-Galong Rail Trail Incorporated, Julie Poplin, said the money would be put towards funding the Boorowa-Galong Rail Trail Development Plan, which would serve as their project design.
“This is like a construction blueprint – they’ll walk the whole length and find out how many of whatever they need and cost it all out, talk with landholders and so on.
“They do a costing of all of that, so when we get our plan back, we know how much it will cost and we can use that to petition the governments to get money to build.
“Until we’ve got that plan, we don’t know our final cost.”
The rail trail would be located on the existing Boorowa railway line, which closed in October 1987, and would run for about 27 km.
The group envision the rail trail as an accessible, multi-use pathway.
“The committee are not all mad keen, Lycra-clad cyclists,” Ms Poplin said.
“We are a mixture of people.
“Some of the committee do cycle, but a lot of the committee just see it as a really good project that’s sustainable, for minimal maintenance cost, a 24/7 recreation asset for the community and it will be great for tourism and locals.”
Ms Poplin said that people could use part of the rail trail, rather than having to tackle the proposed 27 km pathway in one go.
“The surface will be suitable for things like wheelchairs, mums pushing prams, kids riding tricycles and stuff like that,” she added.
The call for donations follows a November 2022 feasibility study, which was funded by grants from the Galong Progress Association and the Hilltops Council.
“That report was released towards the end of last year, and it concluded that it was economically viable and technologically feasible – those were the official words they used – to have a rail trail from Boorowa to Galong,” Ms Poplin said.
“A lot of the infrastructure is still there, and as far as bridges and the like, they’ll need a little bit of maintenance and a bit of work.
“Obviously, the main bridge will need substantial work, but they’ve looked at all that.”
It predicted the Boorowa-Galong Rail Trail would see $2.9 million per year injected into the economy through Hilltops residents using it alongside those coming to the area for a day or overnight visit.
It also estimated construction of the rail trail would cost $10.8 million.
“Getting the money together [for the development plan] is our next step after the feasibility study,” Ms Poplin said.
“We’ve applied for a number of grants and got a $2000 one, but most of the others were unsuccessful.
“We’re hoping that we can tap into the local community and donations from businesses for half of it, and then we’re hoping we can access the other half through future grants.”
Most people, including landholders, responded positively to the call for donations and the wider project.
Ms Poplin acknowledged that while some landholders had concerns about the project, she believed the group could address them.
The concerns included maintaining access to their land on both sides of the area as it is not currently fenced, the possibility of littering or fire starting and trespassing on their nearby property.
“They are all very valid concerns, but we’ve talked to them about how they’d be addressed.”
If the group could raise the money needed for the development plan, works would progress to the next stage, Ms Poplin said.
“We’re hopeful that in the next couple of months, we will have that money, so that the plan can hopefully be done before Christmas.
“In the new year, we can then be looking at grants to cover the construction works,” Ms Poplin said.
Those interested in donating can do so via a GoFundMe page.