Design work has begun on the Wagga Rail Trail, with experts visiting the city on Thursday and Friday.
The proponents behind the trail engaged urban planning firm Inspiring Place after a crowdfunding campaign raised more than $50,000 for a development plan.
Inspiring Place director John Hepper said community consultation would be a key part of the design process.
“We’ll combine our passion for creating exceptional public recreation and tourism facilities with a genuine process involving the community to ensure that public concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered,” he said.
“This won’t be easy and we can’t promise the result will please everyone but we will stand with people on their land to understand their issues and try to mitigate any concerns.”
Rail trail committee chair Lisa Glastonbury said Mr Hepper’s track record on community consultation was one of the reasons his firm was chosen.
“We have specifically engaged Inspiring Place because they have recognised community engagement credentials and we know that both the community and project demands a genuine approach to community consultation”, Ms Glastonbury said.
“The plan will focus on a development strategy, trail design and an indicative trail costing.
“This is a trail that will be for everyone, so it’s important that everyone will be able to have a say.”
The concept for the Wagga Rail Trail is fairly simple: 21 kilometres of sealed track from the visitors centre in Tarcutta Street, along a levee bank and over the highway and then along the rail line to Ladysmith.
However, the existing rail line runs through the middle of several properties and farms, causing concern among some landholders.
Simone Norrie from NSW Farmers said landholders still held concerns about biosecurity, safety and privacy.
“I think it has been made out to be a case of landholders against the community, but there would be genuine concerns from people in town if there was a trail running through their backyards,” Ms Norrie said.
“There seems to be a lot of confusion about what a rail trail is, the reality would be fenced, public, 24/7 access through the middle of a paddock.”
A special rail trail meeting will be held after next week’s NSW Farmers meeting in Wagga, which Ms Norrie said would involve a broad discussion of the facts.
“Our role as a lobby group is to hear their concerns, present the facts and go from there,” she said.
“We’re not here to be for or against any proposal, they just come to us for advice and facts.”