The proposed eastern route of Wagga’s $11 million cycling network plan has been slammed as a potential waste of money.
It comes after council in January accepted the NSW state government’s grant to deliver the design and implement its Active Travel Plan.
The plan – connecting Wagga’s suburbs through five pre-approved bike paths – was welcomed across the city this year, with rail trail proponent Lisa Glastonbury citing residents’ overwhelming support.
She said the dedicated bicycle routes would be good for commuters, recreational riders and even tourism. These benefits excluded the minimised environment impacts and increased health of the city’s residents.
“We want to see it developed,” Ms Glastonbury said. “We want to see it happen.”
But Ms Glastonbury said the eastern route to Forest Hill was a grave concern, with every cyclist group across Wagga rejecting its design.
“We’ve had two independent reports both come back saying the best and most direct route to Forest Hill is via the disused rail corridor,” Ms Glastonbury said.
“Council staff in their proposal to councillors said the use of the Forest Hill link would be the best outcome for the alignment for the eastern route.”
She said council had one chance to get the project right and urged officers to apply for a parliamentary bill to close the disused rail line, which would turn it into crown land.
“The rail corridor is the safest, most direct route and it appeals to the most people,” Ms Glastonbury said.
“Therefore we believe it to be the best use of public funds.”
However, hope of building the “better” trail – utilising the old and “irreparable” rail line – follows years of heated debate.
A previously proposed route to Ladysmith had sparked conflict across the region, with some farmers and landowners opposed to the track intersecting their land.
But Councillor Kerry Pascoe said the bigger picture may be more important.
“I understand this goes through a property and people are against it,” Cr Pascoe said.
“But it would be one of the best things to ever happen to Wagga.”
With current plans taking the route across to Lake Albert before turning east, Cr Pascoe said it would cost more to build and ultimately force children to ride up a steep hill.
“It is stupidity to go south … kids need to be able to ride the paths and enjoy themselves,” he said.
“It would be ridiculous to waste community money like that.”
According to a Daily Advertiser survey, close to 83 per cent of 700 residents in May agreed the Forest Hill route should use the rail corridor.
A decision regarding the eastern path is still up in the air, after a council staff report in May conceded NSW government approval for the use of the corridor was “not likely to be forthcoming”.
With time-line pressures on the $11 million grant, it is feared the use of the rail corridor may not be approved before deadline.
“We’ll be looking seriously at the whole thing,” Cr Pascoe said.
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