ALTHOUGH billed as destined to be one of “the great walking and cycling trails of the world”, the Peninsula Trail remains years and at least $35 million away from of being completed.
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council says work will start in March 2023 and end in April 2024 on the Somerville-Baxter section, but no date has been set to complete other “missing links”.
About half of the trail is in place.
Meanwhile, the peninsula’s “cluster” of eight Rotary clubs has decided to get involved as part of their Australian Centenary Project.
Each club will be involved by installing benches, picnic tables, barbecues and bike stands.
Assistant district governor Peter Rawlings said Rotary’s brand will appear across all council material and signage.
The Peninsula Trail, when completed, will be a network of around 100 kilometres of trails connecting communities and tourist attractions.
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council has committed $10 million the $50 million project, the state government $3 million and federal government $2 million.
Council has identified the Peninsula Trail as a major COVID-19 recovery project, estimating it will bring $111 million in direct economic output and creating more than 250 full-time equivalent jobs during construction phase.
Mr Rawlings said clubs had been working on the “exciting” project for three years, but the idea of the linking trail had been floating around for about 30 years.
“We know it might take 10 years to complete, but nearly three years since it kicked off we are buoyed by progress to date,” he said.
“And so far, it has avoided any major delays due to COVID.”
Mornington Rotary Club member and chair of the working group, Ross Kilborn said hoped the rest of money “can be secured”.
Rotarians hoped the trail could eventually reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions, consistent with the service clubs’ new area of focus, environmental sustainability.
According to community feedback to the council’s budget, footpaths and walking trails are a priority for peninsula communities, drawing most online votes.
In addition, community consultation involving 3000 residents in 2021 identified better walking and cycling infrastructure as a community priority.
A news release issued by the shire stated predicted the completed Peninsula Trail “will take its place among the great walking and cycling trails of the world such as the Route de Vins in France”.
“It will connect to Melbourne’s Bay Trail, enabling cyclists to travel off road from the centre of Melbourne to the tip of the Mornington Peninsula at Portsea, with another branch running along Western Port to Balnarring and the hinterland.”
The same news release quoted the mayor Cr Anthony Marsh as saying the trail had the potential to attract off-peak and mid-week tourists and more evenly disperse them across the peninsula”.
“[The trail] will offer exciting new opportunities for guided walking and cycling tours of the peninsula’s vibrant food, wine and art scene. It will also unlock the potential for eco-tourism, as well as Aboriginal cultural and historic tours.”