Saturday, October 04, 2008

puffing billy release draft environmental management plan

On Friday I went to the release of a Draft Environmental Management Plan for the Puffing Billy rail corridor. It is a timely release given the explosive stage weeds have reached along the Puffing Billy line.

Puffing Billy has always been one of the most spectacular train rides, not only for the nostalgic experience of steam travel, but because of the magnificent natural scenery along the rail corridor. Anyone who has travelled across the trestle bridge and experienced the view of the cool temperate forest of the southern Dandenongs will know how significant the natural environment is to the Puffing Billy experience.

As a dweller along the track I have noticed that the quality of natural vegetation along the corridor has been severely compromised by the invasion of weeds to the point that in some places there are only weeds.

This Draft Environmental Management Plan is a very positive step forward for Puffing Billy, everyone who lives along the rail corridor and the tracts of public land that abut the rail corridor. The plan looks to conserve and preserve the natural and cultural values within the corridor. It will also drive environmentally appropriate relationships between the railway and the community.

Council has been investigating a shared trail (walking and cycling) to connect Belgrave to Menzies Creek alongside the Puffing Billy track by undertaking a feasibility study. Whilst still in draft stage I am hopeful that we can move ahead with the concept of a shared trail beside the track and if I am re-elected to council in November this is a project I will be pursuing.

Wouldn't it be great to see a Belgrave to Menzies Creek trail too?

I am concerned to read in the Draft Environmental Management Plan actions around the public use of the corridor, namely to “survey access tracks to determine usage patterns and identify opportunities to close tracks where viable” (pg 34 -

The community needs more walking tracks not less and I think that closing tracks currently in use would be a backwards move. If tracks exist alongside the rail corridor it means people are using them. Tracks that aren’t used grow over very quickly.

This is the start of the Emerald Cockatoo trail, some 7 kms long. It's a terrific example of what can be achieved.

Puffing Billy are inviting comments from the public on the plan by 30 November 2008. If you would like a copy of the plan contact the Emerald Tourist Railway Board on 9757 0700 or email Christine Dixon on

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