The highly anticipated opening of the Coonawarra Rail Trail was celebrated on the weekend, with the official ribbon cutting taking place on Saturday 5 November.
The trail was opened by Member for Barker Tony Pasin together with Wattle Range Mayor Des Noll, coinciding with the inaugural Coonawarra Running Festival.
The 19km rail trail traverses through the renowned Coonawarra wine region, where some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon in the world is produced.
Mr Pasin said the $2m project was a long-term vision for many in the community which had now been realised thanks to $1.66m funding from the second phase of the former Coalition Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) program.
The sealed trail follows the unused Mount Gambier to Wolseley rail corridor which stretches from the Penola Township via the vineyards of Coonawarra to an end near Father Woods Park — home to seven sculptures depicting the lives of Father Julian Tenison Woods and Saint Mary of the Cross Mackillop.
“The Coonawarra and Penola communities have been advocating for this project for many years and it’s fantastic to have been able to deliver Federal Government funding to see the project come to fruition,” Mr Pasin said.
The LRCI program was announced by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic to support local councils to deliver priority local road and community infrastructure projects across Australia, supporting jobs and resilience of local communities.
Mr Pasin said it was fantastic to see projects funded through the program deliver for local communities across the country, including the Limestone Coast.
“Not only is the trail an exciting new addition to the region for local residents, but it’s an addition to the already vibrant tourism offering in the Coonawarra,” he said.
“To be able to walk or cycle along this trail through the beautiful red gums or vineyards of the region is a major drawcard.
“Tourism is an important industry to the Coonawarra Wine Region and this project is strengthening that industry now and into the future.
“It’s projects like this that make our communities better places to live, work and raise a family, he said.
The railway line from Wolseley to Mount Gambier was originally part of South Australian Railways (SAR) narrow gauge network, converted later to broad gauge. Opened in stages from 1881, it reached Mount Gambier in 1887 and connected with the broad-gauge Adelaide-Melbourne line at Wolseley.
Passenger services to Adelaide ended in December 1990, and the line officially closed in April 1995. Some of the line was used by the Limestone Coast Railway tourist service, but this ceased operations in June 2006.