Australia’s Great Adventure Rail Trail.
The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail is an incredible resource that connects our communities, provides great economic and recreational opportunities, and helps to create a healthier population.
The Otago Rail Trail in NZ is a good example of a Rail Trail that has revitalised a local rural economy, but many communities across the world have experienced a similar economic revitalisation due to rail trails, especially in the North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Visitor statistics for the www.brisbanevalleyrailtrail.com.au website, monitoring of social media and anecdotal reports from local businesses and landowners, plus encounters out on the trail indicate that we have been highly successful in achieving a steady growth in visitor traffic on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
The indications are that 80% of visitors are from Brisbane and South-East Queensland and 90% of visitors are cyclists, but the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail is now attracting visitors from all over Australia. New Zealand, Europe, North America and even China (a local landowner south of Esk recently related a charming story about encountering a group of Chinese students hiking on the trail. He had a wonderful time giving them an impromptu lesson in bush craft. They were enthralled.).
The millions of tourism dollars and many other benefits a completed Brisbane Valley Rail Trail will bring to the rural regions it passes through, and for SE Qld as a whole, easily justifies the investment by the State Government and Local Councils.
We acknowledge there are some challenges. Additional investment by the Queensland Government over and above the $1.8 million allocated for Toogoolawah to Moore may be required.
We recognise that in difficult economic times, governments have to make the most of every dollar spent. That’s why Rail Trails stand out. They can be completed at a relatively low cost and give a very good rate of return in the form of hard tourism dollars and creation of employment opportunities, plus the less tangible health and other benefits from improved recreational facilities for the local population.
For the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail to attract serious tourism investment, it must be completed and completed soon. Whilst we’ve been successful in driving increased traffic on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, it’s become clear that the bureaucratic delays and uncertainty about funding are inhibiting tourism investment and growth.
To quote at length from the original ‘Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Plan’ commissioned by the Queensland Government in 2010 and prepared by Mike Halliburton Associates:
“Rail trails will deliver recreation, social and health benefits to urban users as well as adjacent rural and rural residential communities. They offer rewarding experiences to families, bicycle tourists, mountain bike riders, historical enthusiasts, horse riders and walkers. In selected sections, access can be provided for personal mobility vehicles.
Rail trails provide communities (both residents and visitors) with a diverse and free opportunity to explore and enjoy healthy recreational pursuits. Active recreation, in any form, will improve health. People can use trails in a variety of ways depending on their abilities and preferences. They yield significant health benefits both to the individual and society. In the USA, a comprehensive health economics study showed every US$1.00 invested in recreational trails for physical activity yielded a direct medical benefit of US$2.94 (Wang et al. 2005).
Through service industry opportunities such as refreshments, meals, accommodation, camping supplies and group transport, the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail has the potential to bring focused economic benefits to the communities along the line. Trails provide a significant economic benefit to communities where they are located.”
Rail Trails are a valuable tourism asset, especially when marketed well. That is a factor that was missing between 2011 and 2014 when professional marketing and promotion for the Brisbane Valley Rai Trail was almost non-existent. Part build it and they will come seems to have been the attitude. It didn’t work. When I first stated exploring the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail in 2014, there was virtually no-one else using it.
Since then, with almost zero funding but a great deal of dedication and support from like-minded activists, we have managed to turn that around.
Our efforts have produced results that are real and tangible. They are not some academic study projecting hypothetical benefits, they are hiking boots, horse hoofs and bicycle wheels on the ground, bums on the seats in pubs and cafes, and real people out enjoying the benefits of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
When Bicycle Queensland partnered with our Association to organise the first annual ‘Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Experience’ Bike ride on 22 May of this year, the event was fully booked with 300 participants. Next year the event will be expanded to 500 participants.
We’ve developed a professional website, we are constantly active on social media, and every month we organise events. We have 25 participants signed up to ride in the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Team in the BQ Brisbane to Gold Coast 2016 bike ride later this month. Just wearing the great BVRT cycling jerseys and talking to the 6000 plus cyclists in that one event is a great promotion for the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
The BVRT was recently featured on ‘Creek to Coast’ and for a whole week by the ‘ABC Spencer Howson Breakfast Show’ and even mentioned in an article in the New York Times with a link to the website.
Just imagine what could be achieved with a completed Brisbane Valley Rail Trail and a half-decent marketing budget?
For the very first time since the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail was first conceived, the planets are in alignment for completion of this great project. The Somerset community is behind it, Somerset Regional Council is behind it, and the Queensland Government is behind it. What is needed now is for everyone to give one last big push.
Together we can get this over the line.