Members of the community have formed a steering committee to guide the Molonglo Rail Trail project which has recently been certified as an incorporated association – Molonglo Rail Trail Inc. The steering committee has raised funding for a feasibility study and has engaged local company TRC Tourism to look at the costs of establishing a rail trail compared to the benefits to the community and local businesses. A key part of the feasibility study will be to conduct individual discussions with adjacent landowners to identify issues and find solutions. The study will determine:
- whether the trail route is physically possible,
- what support there is from the community, adjacent landowners and local, state and Commonwealth governments,
- whether the route provides a unique and high quality experience for users,
- if there is a market for the proposed trail,
- the issues for adjacent landowners,
- options for ongoing maintenance, and
- whether it would be value for money.
There are many questions that must be canvassed in an open and transparent way so that any decisions made for or against such a development are well informed and understood. As a first step postgraduate students from the Sydney University Business School Remote and Rural Enterprise (RARE) Program have produced a draft business plan. RARE is a community-engaged learning program, connecting students at the University of Sydney with remote and rural enterprises in Australia to collaboratively complete action-research projects. The action-research project in this instance has been to scope the opportunities and constraints of the proposed Molonglo Rail Trail as a contribution to the full feasibility study. The business plan has provided estimates of economic benefits to local businesses and new business opportunities based on comparisons with similar rail trails. Marketing strategies are presented that could provide funding for long term maintenance. The committee is currently adding additional data to the business case and it will be included in the feasibility study.
The steering committee has collected many letters of support from individuals and community groups. Palerang Council has voted to support a feasibility study as has the Bungendore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. A website has been established www.molonglorailtrail.org and a brochure highlighting the possibility of the rail trail and the need for a feasibility study has been printed for local and regional distribution. A support and information group, Friends of Molonglo Rail Trail, is up and running and new members are encouraged to join through the website.