Group is against plans to ‘vandalise’ rail trail
A RECENT decision by Somerset Regional Council has met with backlash from a local community group, that is firmly opposing plans to concrete a section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
“The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail is an amazing 161 adventure rail trail through real Queensland country,” Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Users Association president Paul Heymans said.
“It’s not a transport corridor.”
The council recently carried out an online survey calling for public opinions about the plan to install a 2.5m wide, 17.4km long concrete bikeway from Clive St in Fernvale, to Bayley Rd in Pine Mountain, where it would connect to the Brassall Bikeway.
A total of 367 respondents held negative views about the proposal, while 133 were in support of it.
“73% of respondents voted against it, yet they decided to go ahead anyway. Were there any comments in favour of the project? Yes, there were a few, but easily outnumbered by the naysayers,” Mr Heymans said.
“Somerset towns all have footpaths badly in need of repair, our roads are falling apart, yet Somerset Council is proposing to spend $7 million on a bikeway that even the cyclists don’t want.”
The truth is more complicated than these simple figures suggest.
The $7 million cost will be divided equally between the Somerset and Ipswich councils, and they also plan to seek external funding to aid in covering the project.
Somerset Regional Council also said around 76% of those who replied to the online survey don’t live in the Somerset area, with some residing as far away as Cairns and Melbourne.
A Fernvale business-house survey carried out at the same time received more responses, and showed opposite results, with 667 in favour of the bikeway, and 357 against it.
“Somerset’s population will hit about 34,000 people in the next 10 years or so, and council is here to represent the current and future interests of residents of the Somerset Regional Council area,” Mayor Graeme Lehmann said.
Despite its proximity to the Brisbane Valley Highway, Fernvale is poorly serviced by public transport, and the Somerset Council believes the installation of the bikeway will make it easier for people to travel safely between Fernvale, Ipswich, and the areas in-between.
“The trail is a State Government asset and Somerset residents rightfully expect they should have safe transport connections like the rest of southeast Queensland. You cannot safely ride a bike on State Highway 17 from Fernvale.”
Mr Heymans disagreed with this stance.
“It’s a recreational trail where people come to escape from concrete and bitumen,” he said.
“We campaigned for four and a half years to get the BVRT completed. Our events generate economic activity in the region that is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to local businesses. We have worked very hard for the past six years to turn the BVRT into a success story, and we will fight Somerset Council tooth and nail to prevent the construction of a concrete bikeway.”
He argued there were other alternatives to concrete.
“The Otago Rail Trail in New Zealand is one of the most famous in the world, yet the surface is gravel and road base,” he said.
The BVRT Users Association is planning a protest bike ride from Fernvale to Diamentina Blvd and back on Saturday, December 7, to celebrate their love for that section of the rail trail.
“If you care about the BVRT, please join the ride. It will be departing from Fernvale at 6am,” Mr Heymans said.
“Runners, walkers and horse riders are welcome to make their own way there in their own time and pace to show their support for the campaign.”