The Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail is regarded as a significant conservation, heritage and tourism asset which already generates positive benefits to the many communities along its path but which has capacity to contribute so much more to both locals and casual users alike. The Trail provides a fantastic setting to support a host of recreation pursuits including horse riding, cycling, bush walking and bird watching.
The Trail starts in deepest darkest Ballarat before it reaches the rolling hills, scrub-land forests and grassy plains of Golden Plains and Corangamite Shires. It meanders for 53 kms from Ballarat to Skipton. It passes through significant remnant native grasslands at the Ballarat and Skipton ends of the Trail. It roams through the Clarkesdale Bird Sanctuary near Linton; it exhibits 17 notable bird species (and many others not so notable!). The Trail traverses the impressive and historic Nimmons Bridge at Newtown. There are other historical gold mining sites, heritage assets and conversation virtues along the Trail.
It also connects with other possible adventures (or metaphorical spur lines if you like) such as the Rainbow Bird Trail from Newtown to Berringa and Dereel.
Until recently the surface was very difficult going (see photo gallery prior to surface upgrade above), really only suitable for serious mountain bike users. In June 2008 the resurfacing of the entire length of the Trail was completed. This has been done with compacted granite sand and is profiled to drain properly. The Trail is now suited to most bikes (though you probably would want some fatter tyres (an inch or wider) if riding your road bike). The surface has now received its final grade for profiling and compaction. Crossings and signage are completed. The surface for the first two kilometres from Ring Rd to Remembrance Drive is the last section to be brought up to standard, having been completed in May 2009. The official opening for Stages 1 and 2 of the Trail was held on 29 October 2008. Stage 3 covers the connection between Wendouree Parade and the Ring Rd start of the Trail, and was completed in February 2010.
The prior to ugrade photos which can be viewed via the link at the top of this page give a warts and all view of the Trail. The photos posted during November 2008 give an indication of what to expect if you ride from now on.
With the improvement of these amenities, local communities will be able to realise the potential economic, tourism, health and community benefits of the Trail.
Three participating Councils (Ballarat, Golden Plains and Coragamite) have come together to form a management group and committed to contributing to the capital costs involved in developing the Trail as well as ongoing maintenance. The Victorian Government through its Small Towns Development Program, and the Federal Government through its former Regional Partnerships Program funding are also contributing to the capital costs.
The Rail Trail provides the opportunity for an interesting and informative 53-kilometre tour through farmland, historic towns and forests as well as areas of conservation and historic significance.
Breakdowns of funding:
City of Ballarat $99,364
Golden Plains Shire $50,000
Corangamite Shire $50,000
Australian Government $253,000
Victorian Government $250,000
Total project cost: $702,364
On top of this money, a further $300,000 was pledged by Johhn Brumby in November 2006 in the ALP Policy Launch for Ballarat prior to the Victorian elections to make a sealed bike path connection between the start of the Rail Trail at Ring Rd, along Gregory St West, past the new Wendouree Railway Station, to Lake Wendouree (Stage 3).