Santa Claus has delivered an early gift along the O’Keefe Rail Trail, climbing ladders and helping install one of the iconic track’s whistle boards.
Whistle boards were used on working rail lines to indicate that drivers were approaching road crossings and needed to sound their whistles.
Santa was at work as Mitchell Shire and the City of Greater Bendigo considered a gift of their own with the expected release of the results of a feasibility study into a 78km Heathcote to Wallan rail trail.
Any new track would most likely link to the O’Keefe in Heathcote.
Mitchell Shire councillors will formally consider whether to endorse the feasibility study for public release next week.
If endorsed, details of the study will be made publicly available, though any further steps for the new trail would not be decided until at least February.
“(Mitchell Shire) community members can ask questions or raise any concerns at the community questions and hearings committee meetings which are held the week prior to council meetings,” a spokesperson said.
“They can also contact council staff or councillors at any time.”
Mitchell Shire business engagement officer Vanessa Wiltshire said the council had gone to great lengths to engage and consult with the community.
“We understand there are a wide range of views on the rail trail,” she said.
Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail life member Ken Hanson said some landowners along the proposed route may have a fear of the unknown but could be confident anyone using the track would not cause issues.
“They don’t realise the calibre of the people who use the (O’Keefe) rail trail,” he said.
Users included families, retirees and community groups like the Scouts.
“They are not drop-kicks. They are people with a lot of social intent,” Mr Hanson said.
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Friends of the Trail members also made it their habit to pick up any rubbish they found and the group was often busy maintaining or installing infrastructure along the O’Keefe, Mr Hanson said.
That infrastructure included the new whistle boards which were being installed where the trail crossed public roads.
“It’s a safety feature. The name of the road is on the post and the whistle board announces the name of the trail you are on,” Mr Hanson said.
The funding for the whistle boards was provided by the Bendigo council, which Mr Hanson thanked. He noted the strong working relationship with council’s staff and councillors.