Snakes & Ladders (a few months after 13 Nov 2016): A lapsing grant saw us lose nearly half our funds. Those who haven't given up have thrown their weight behind other people's worthwhile projects in the hope of mutually advantageous stronger outcomes. It's taken a while to get back into the saddle but we know we'll get there one day...For a more up to date story take a look at the AGM Report (28 March 2017).
PREVIOUS UPDATE (3 May 2016) : We are happy that our bike path features in the Draft LGA Cycling Strategy. Unfortunately only with MEDIUM priority (the strategy is yet to be finalised!) but we are nonetheless very grateful that Cessnock Council's meeting on 2 Sept 2015 saw all Councillors unanimously approving to accept responsibility for care and management of the crown land parcels encompassing the full alignment of our bike path from Kearsley Road to Abernethy. This includes the land upon which our bridge is to be sited. The transfer seems to be taking forever but given that our path extends the prospective Richmond Vale Rail Trail - and its nearest National Park (Werakata) - into the web of spectacular bush trails that connect many of the Lower Hunter's most evocative old coal mine sites, we'd expect it to take a little time.
Nonetheless, we remain in a quandary over whether or not to commence detailed design for our bridge. Although Council has directed where we are to put it, the fact that we have not been able to find a spare c$20K for a full alignment assessment, sees Council less than keen to allow commencement of construction due to the risk that our bridge (and its aprons) - as carefully 'sited' as it has been through a very long process of elimination - could still possibly be being built in the wrong place ! It seems the fear is that parts of the approach trails may have to be removed when the whole project goes ahead. Who would have thought there could possibly be more problems than a doubling of length (& cost!) due to ecological, archaeological, historical, flood&fire safety, and mining legacy that each combine to impact our bridge site ?
Because all those uncertainties may also apply for the entire encompassing alignment, our funding plans for the bridge have come to a standstill. The only decent grants we've been able to entertain (each $20K) are now either expired, or we became ineligible for them because one of the others we had successfully applied for previously has since expired and therefore we can't add up enough to do the job - even in combination with the $25K of privately raised funds we've compiled over three and a half years of knocking on doors, holding events, running raffles and burger flipping. We may end up having to give all that money back. Our latest tally of grant applications (21 unsuccessful grants v 5 successful ones averaging less than $5K each) suggests we need a different approach.
The backstory is this - Firstly, Council does not see our cycleway as high enough priority relative to those supporting existing tourism districts. Secondly, there are very few grants that are either big enough or flexible enough for a community to manage because of the high dollars involved in building high quality public infrastructure. To put it plainly, It is nearly impossible for Communities to access REAL finance for infrastructure. As such all the goodwill, imagination and youth unemployment that should be turning unused assets (old mine sites, unused rail corridors) into healthy community environments just dissipates, disappears or festers.
This senseless waste of goodwill, good land and community resources is a problem but "Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don't have any problems, you don't get any seeds." - Norman Vincent Peale (1898 - 1993), American Author.
The seeds in our case are the partnerships in our own region that we've established getting this far, and the Cessnock community's desperate need for infrastructure supporting stronger identity, nurturing and good health - bike trails, hike trails, picnic grounds and even footpaths. The business case is obvious (Obesity costs Australia more than five Hunter Expressways every year, and more than ALL the money Australian governments at all levels spend on public housing each year). Unfortunately our short-sightedly constrained regulatory environments combine to prevent economically effective investment for that payback on healthy cycling infrastructure. We've been waiting for social bonds to be applied to the problem but a far simpler solution that will allow federal investment on local projects demonstrating a business case appears to be just around the corner (SMH Friday 29 April 2016 Page1 "Smart Cities" re: long dated bonds available for projects that can demonstrate returns to the commonwealth from economic growth or social value capture).
But will local communities see that they hold the power to devise these outcomes?
Above: Abernethy kids on the track running parallel to Kearsley Rd.
Above : This is a bridge similar to the one AHLA is fundraising for; cost now estimated to be c$150K.
AHLA Xmas Party Abernethy Dam 2012 complete with sighting of the normally shy Loch Abernethy Monster
You'd have to feel sorry for us. We had $45K...
Elite Riders use this trail too - On Road Bikes and on Mountain Bikes.These pictures were taken as racing MTB cyclists take on the sandy approach just south of our proposed bridge in the Port To Port event...