Converted rail trail breathes life into city

Article image - Converted rail trail breathes life into city Members of the Reflexion Running Group who regularly use the trail.

A shared path running through the centre of the City of Mount Gambier in South Australia has become the regional city’s most popular communal meeting spot.

The 3.1-kilometre Rail Trail was once an abandoned railway line, and the deserted tracks overgrown with weeds were off-limits to the general public. When the land was gifted to the community by the South Australian Government, the City of Mount Gambier set to work re-purposing the site into a much-needed public green space.

City of Mount Gambier Engineering manager, Daryl Morgan, said the Rail Trail is one of the most well received projects that Council has undertaken.

“We have had so much good feedback, because everybody has the opportunity to use it; every time you go past, you always see people out and about on the trail – it’s become such a vibrant recreational hub.”

Mr Morgan said the Rail Trail has lived up to its vision as a multipurpose community space, with the stunning transformation injecting new life into a neglected wasteland and restoring a sense of civic pride.

“It’s not just a serious exercise track; it’s a genuine commuter route and that’s what we anticipated it to be – there are a lot of people who use it to walk or cycle home from work or school, and you also see a lot of parents teaching their kids to ride their bikes safely.”

Senior players from West Gambier Netball Club are among the sporting teams utilising the new-look space.

“We used it for an ‘Amazing Race’ team-building activity, and we also set up a circuit on the reserve for our pre-season training,” said A-grade coach Lisa Cram. “It’s in a great central location and it’s such a fantastic open area for us to use.”

Members of the Reflexion Health and Fitness studio located opposite the rail reserve are also regular users.

“It’s a great warm-up area for some of our classes, but we also have around 25 members in a running group that use it twice a week; the trail offers a nice and flat, largely uninterrupted run through town without having to go onto footpaths or along sides of the road,” said owner Phil Ackland.

Mr Ackland said he is amazed by the amount of people making use of the area.

“It’s such a wonderful community space that ties in with the rest of the city and it’s such a fantastic facility to be able to use – it’s incredible to think how useable and well-used that space is compared to how long it sat as a disused rail yard.”

The success of the project has prompted the City of Mount Gambier to seek funding to virtually double the length of the trail by extending it past Pick Avenue and linking it up with the existing Jubilee Highway path leading to Blue Lake Sports Park.

Plans are also in place to extend the western end of the trail, creating a common thread that connects the entire city both physically and socially.