The Rail Trail is not just about a walking track, it’s about eco-tourism and host communities, festivals and events, employment, education and workplace training, mental and physical health, equity for the disabled, habitat and wildlife corridors and most importantly, future legacies. It would showcase our natural environment and our beautiful lifestyle to the world.
It will most certainly prove to be a prime example of the type of public infrastructure that is urgently needed nationally to address a challenging mass of ills that confront contemporary society. It could be part of a new way of thinking about walking and riding and public health and happiness, particularly in the regions. As a valid means of transport or for the sheer joy of it, a journey along the rail trail would be safe from traffic and free of exhaust fumes. It would be quiet, interesting, social, comfortable and beautiful and it could inspire the sort of personal changes that people find difficult to make. It may also add impetus to the development of a nationally integrated pedestrian and cycling network.
But here’s the thing that’s a knockout, no other rail trail in the world has an internationally renown tourism hotspot like Byron Bay sitting right in the middle of it, flush with the tourism dollars (and a perfect fit tourism demographic) that can ultimately pay for the rail trail and guarantee it a very profitable future.
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A Rail Trail is so much more than just a walking track. One day we will surely be wondering how we lived without such a spectacular asset.
Since the decline of the traditional industries of our region, tourism has grown to be the only really significant replacement industry. It underpins the local economy today as timber and dairy had done in the past. As the railway corridor supported the former industries with rail freight services, so again it can support the emerging tourism industry in a way that our forebears could never have imagined. The corridor has been and remains a timeless blessing.
Investors, land owners and business operators with brilliant ideas will be able to offer a myriad of products and services that would be quite compelling for a trail user; a cool drink, a souvenir, a unique experience or a night’s rest. Even beyond the construction period, a considerable surge in jobs will be the direct outcome of the establishment and management of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail.
Perhaps most importantly of all, for we the residents, the rail trail will connect individuals with community, it will be an antidote for loneliness and isolation and a host of other ills that confront contemporary society. It will be infrastructure for healthy future generations.
Spending quality time in a safe, clean, environment, free from noise and traffic hazards, will become a hallmark experience of the beautiful Northern Rivers lifestyle.