Opinion | On trail of another ecotourism winner

Increasingly, walking trails, cycling trails, ecotourism trails and, in some cases, commuting links are appearing along the disused railway lines snaking across Australia. 

Railroads, with their gentle slopes, make ideal cycling or walking trails for locals and tourists. The Hunter has the Fernleigh track as a shining example of a completed active travel trail and the Richmond Vale Rail Trail (RVRT) as a work in progress. The conversion of the disused rail line from Hexham to Richmond Vale has been a long-term dream of many since the last steam train made its spectacular exit by blockading the line on Hexham Swamps in 1987. 

The RVRT traverses three LGAs and the councils of Cessnock, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle have plans now underway to bring it to the shovel ready stage. The RVRT will connect Shortland to Hexham along the old water pipeline, then Hexham across Hunter Wetland National Park, Pambalong Nature Reserve, Stockrington State Conservation Area, via tunnels and bridges through the Werakata State Conservation Area to Richmond Vale. The RVRT will become one of the Hunter’s iconic trails linking Newcastle to the vineyards, and bringing access along the way to a wide variety of ecosystems from wetlands to red gum forests and an abundance of bird life.

We need public support to ensure this important project for our region is completed. 

At the TFI we have organised, with the generous support of the Donaldson Conservation Trust, an exciting array of expert speakers for a free conference Active Transport: The Richmond Vale Rail Trail on September 27 at the University of Newcastle’s Callaghan Campus. The book Towards the Richmond Vale Rail Trail also will be launched at the conference. 

Join us for a memorable day.

Professor Tim Roberts is the director of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, University of Newcastle