Launched at an event at Federation Square today, the Northern Regional Trails Strategy aims to connect natural and cultural tourist attractions in Melbourne north, including Montsalvat, Organ Pipes National Park, La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary and the Heidelberg Artist Trail.
The entire Northern Regional Trails Network would total 780 kilometres of track (consisting of 120 existing routes, in addition to a further 96 new and linking ones), with the Victorian minister for Sport, Tourism and Major Events, John Ehren, saying the plan could generate $4.6 billion in economic benefits over a 30-year period.
Speaking at the launch, the Northern Regional Trails spokesperson and mayor of Nillumbik Shire Council, Bronnie Hattam described the project as a low-cost measure that may reduce the pressures of population growth in the area.
“There is a wonder of natural assets and attractions in Melbourne’s north. A connected, coordinated network of off-road trails means that these will be more accessible to local residents and visitors to explore on foot or bicycle.
“We want Melbourne’s north to be renowned for its integrated regional trail network. A network that showcases the region’s diverse natural and cultural heritage and leverages off existing tourism attractions to establish the region as a destination of choice,” Hattam said.
A promotional video for the trail network was also released in time for the launch, which can be viewed on YouTube.
While this initiative is largely focused towards providing cyclists with a more established network of vehicle-free routes, it will also offer walkers the same. Moreover, the more people this network reaches, the more will be inspired to take on greener, more healthy modes of transport.
Bicycle Network’s executive officer, Craig Richards, said Melbourne’s bicycle community is already excited about the proposed strategy.
“By creating more spaces for people to ride, walk and get active, the Northern Regional Trails Strategy will help convert the north into a less congested, healthier and happier community. You can be only a few hundred metres from the hustle and bustle but in these spaces you’ll feel like you’re miles from anywhere,” Richards said.
Dr Geoff Mosely, a proponent of the Many Peaks Track concept and longtime contributor to Wild, said he was disappointed the strategy does not “take the region’s section of this track to the boundary of the Northern Region”.
“While it is good to have a strategy for trails within the region, it is also important to have an inter-region component of the strategy.”
While the proposal has the in-principal support of constituent councils and has thus far been funded by northern municipalities in partnership with the state government, it will require further investment as well as support from the federal government if it is to become a reality.
The was previously led by the former Victorian Trails Coordinating Committee (VTCC) that proceeded to be shut down following a change of Victorian government in 2015, and Nillumbik Shire Council began spearheading the strategy.