Northern Rivers Rail Trail committee members and supporters Hilary Wise, Marie Lawton, Jennifer Regan, John Bennett, Geoff Meers and Neil McKenzie welcome the generous donation from Brian Hodges (fIfth from left).
Northern Rivers Rail Trail committee members and supporters Hilary Wise, Marie Lawton, Jennifer Regan, John Bennett, Geoff Meers and Neil McKenzie welcome the generous donation from Brian Hodges (fIfth from left).

Keen cyclist gives rail trail a boost

THE Northern Rivers Rail Trail has been given a giant boost with a $17,500 donation from a cycling enthusiast - to add to the $75,000 already raised through crowdfunding.

Brian Hodges moved to the area just one year ago from Santa Barbara, US, and lives 500 metres away from the disused rail track in Brooklet.

"It was clearly on my radar and I was curious as to what led to the demise of the train, and my initial thoughts were it would be great to have a train service restored," Brian said.

"Digging a little deeper, I discovered there were real economic issues related to the viability of the train and the infrastructure investment and then I learnt of the organisation and it made much more sense to me.

"I think the community benefits will be much greater and I've seen successful examples of this in the states and New York."

As a cyclist, Brian would be an avid user of a rail trail.

"I feel that there's a big problem with usable roads to cycle on here - they seem to be quite narrow and dangerous," he said.

"I recently moved to Australia and we shipped a container over with all of our goods and seven bicycles."

The bikes in his possession included an electric hybrid bicycle, mountain bike and beach cruiser.

"Regrettably, they are gathering dust. It's something I did daily in California," Brian said.

"I'm eager to get back on a safe place and use my bicycle, not just as a recreational tool but something I can use as a functional device ... go shopping with it and use it for transportation."

Northern Rivers Rail Trail secretary Geoff Meers said one of the main drivers of the group was to help people have a healthy recreation.

"The donation is going to help us generate a good business case and hopefully get some funding," Geoff said.

"We have got some funding in the Tweed end but this is the Casino to Bangalow end of the trail.

"To get funding, you need to have a decent business case." 

NRRT treasurer Marie Lawton says a petition will be presented to Parliament asking the Federal Government to match the $6.5 million from the NSW Government to build the section of the trail from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek.

"We reached nearly 2000 signatures which was an excellent result," she said.

"The NRRT will be different things to different people depending on whether you like to walk, ride a bicycle or a horse, or drive a zero-emissions vehicle such as a mobility scooter, a Segway or an electric bike. 

"It will also depend on whether you want to cover the whole 132 kilometres from Casino to Murwillumbah, or a specific section of the trail that appeals to your particular interest. 

"You may want to walk or ride to work or school or just take a short stroll in your local area as part of your daily exercise program."

Marie says Casino is poised to be one of the greatest beneficiaries of the NRRT. 

"The Old Casino Railway Station, redeveloped as the rail trail head, would be a facility that could provide information, and portray all the excitement and adventure of setting out on the journey," she said.

While there is no opposition to the rail trail from government, there is some opposition from enthusiastic train supporters who continue to lobby for the rail line to be restored.

"Unfortunately government has no interest in doing this, which is why the idea of the rail trail was born," Marie said.

"We figure it is better to use the corridor for the public to use as an active transport corridor rather than see it become more and more overgrown and derelict." 


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