GrandRidge RailTrail (Map 40) set to reopen in August
NEARLY 2½ years after bushfire devastated the Strzelecki Ranges and closed the Grand Ridge Rail Trail, this key local tourist attraction is one big step closer to reopening, with two 66-metre bridges – ''mini Sydney Harbour style'' – recently installed on the Grand Ridge Rail Trail. (report in The Age 20/06/2011)
If the weather stays fine for a few weeks and drainage, earthmoving and resurfacing works can be completed, project organisers hope to open the popular bush trail by the end of August.
Three 22-metre spans of the final bridge were lifted into place at the Bair Creek crossing by giant cranes last week. Space was tight and the work challenging, just like the truck trip into the forest to deliver the bridge.
Peter Hourigan, from bridge contracting firm Hourigan and Walsh, said it took more than six hours to transport the first truss to the crossing. It was slow going, with a tractor required to adjust the sliding truck and occasional pruning needed to ensure the journey of about two kilometres along the trail could be completed.
''Over time they will become an icon,'' Mr Hourigan said of the bridges. ''When the bush grows back around them again, they'll be very unique.'' The trusses were built by local company Strzelecki Engineering.
Residents welcomed the progress, and are keen for the 13-kilometre trail to be reopened, saying it is popular with cyclists, walkers and horse riders and is a crucial link between Mirboo North and Boolarra. They say the trail brings visitors from the Latrobe Valley, South Gippsland and as far afield as Melbourne and interstate.
The project's manager, Bill Storer, from the Department of Sustainability and Environment, said the new bridges were much bigger than their predecessors and would make the trail more accessible. ''The bridges will cross over at the top of the gully so there will no longer be a steep walk down and up on either side of the bridge,'' he said.
Mr Storer said the Delburn bushfire damaged the rail trail and surrounding forest ''extensively. Three-quarters of the vegetation was severely damaged, some of it was killed along the trail edge … It destroyed two pedestrian bridges,'' he said.
The $1.6 million fire recovery project is funded by the Victorian bushfire reconstruction authority and DSE.
Neil Cartwright, secretary of the rail trail management committee, welcomed the bridge installation. He said the trail was growing in popularity before the fire struck, and was the biggest local tourist drawcard. It would become an even bigger drawcard with the new bridges.
The trail's reopening would generate ''a huge influx of visitors'', he said.
''We're missing out on vital business for a number of businesses because of the fact it's really been closed for nigh on 2½ years,'' he said.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/harbour-bridge-recovery-set-for-bushfirehit-region-20110619-1ga8e.html#ixzz1PlkkkyZ6