Wimmera River Discovery Trail Update

Published on 22 October 2021

In 2019 Hindmarsh Shire Council received funding from State and Federal Governments to implement the Dimboola to Lake Hindmarsh section of the Wimmera River Discovery Trail. Total funding for this stage is $1.2 million, with $600,000 from the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund being matched by $400,000 from the Victorian State Government and $200,000 from Hindmarsh Shire Council.

The project is to deliver a 62km cycling and walking trail along the Wimmera River corridor between Dimboola and Lake Hindmarsh. The project includes:

  • Dimboola visitor node at the rear of the library leading track users to the Nine Creeks trails and onto the Wimmera River Discovery Trail
  • Jeparit visitor node at the ‘swimming hole’ picnic area near the Caravan Park and Tennis Courts
  • Directional signage and formalisation of existing trails along the river corridor and, where necessary installing new sections of trail.
  • Pedestrian bridge across the Wimmera River at Jeparit

Visitor Nodes

The Dimboola Visitor Node has been completed, with the addition of a Wimmera River Discovery Trail information sign currently being designed. This beautifully landscaped area behind the Dimboola Library provides public amenities including toilets and a shower, plus an area to chain bicycles up for security whilst visitors enjoy the nearby shopping and food options Dimboola has on offer. The Dimboola Visitor Node provides a perfect starting point, or end point, of the journey along the trail.

The Jeparit Visitor Node is in the final design stage and will include updated BBQ and picnic facilities plus a much needed upgrade to the foreshore viewing and river access. It will become a focus point for not only trail users but visitors to Jeparit in general.

A community meeting is being planned for mid-November in Jeparit to provide the local community with an opportunity to view the draft Jeparit Visitor Node plans. Subject to COVID-19 restrictions, the community meeting will potentially be held at the Jeparit Tennis Club rooms and on-site at the swimming hole commencing at approximately 5.30pm.

Hindmarsh Shire Council Mayor Cr Ron Ismay said “Council acknowledges there has been delays in providing the community with details of plans for the Jeparit Visitor Node. The delay has been caused because of the need to finalise plans to redevelop the tiered erosion control system at the Jeparit Swimming Hole which has now been completed”.

Cr Ismay added “Because planning for the Jeparit Visitor Node has been dependent upon the plan for the swimming hole, Council will now be able to be complete the Visitor Node plans in time for display at the community meeting in November”.

Further information regarding dates, times and venues for the meeting will be published when details are finalised.

The Trail

Work on the trail has been delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions that have impacted various elements required to undertake and complete on-ground surveys and inspections.

The significance of the Wimmera River to the Wotjobaluk Peoples is a key theme and highlight of the Wimmera River Discovery Trail and Council has been working closely with Barengi Gadjin Land Council, Parks Victoria and Cultural Heritage advisors doing on-ground scoping of the trail alignment.

As part of the on-ground scoping of the trail alignment, the Cultural Heritage advisors are preparing Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMP) which are a core component of the trail as they determine the actual alignment of the trail based on findings. The Cultural Heritage surveys have uncovered a significant number of new sites which are in the process of being registered with Aboriginal Victoria as part of the CHMP process. The density of new Cultural Heritage sites reinforces the significance of the Wimmera River to the Wotjobaluk Peoples and it is exciting news that so many new sites are being discovered and recorded as part of the Wimmera River Discovery Trail project.

Whilst the establishment of Cultural Heritage Management Plans are a crucial component of the project, the vast majority of the Wimmera River Discovery Trail will utilise existing vehicle tracks, with only various sections of the 62km journey requiring the establishment of a new trail. Other work on the trail will include the installation of interpretative and directional signage keeping trail users on the right track and reinstatement of areas that have been impacted by rain, floods and vehicles etc.

Crossing the Wimmera River

After spending most of the trail on the eastern side of the Wimmera River, the trail needs to cross the river at Jeparit to continue the final leg through to Four Mile Beach at Lake Hindmarsh.

During the development of the trail masterplan in 2016 the old Jeparit Railway Bridge was considered as an option, subject to structural assessments and retrofitting a walkway on top of the existing bridge. The decommissioned rail bridge was built in 1891 as part of the Lorquon-Jeparit railway and is currently owned and maintained by VicTrack.

In 2016, Council engaged the services of an independent structural engineer to provide an initial assessment on the bridge through an offsite photographic investigation to determine if the structure appeared in good enough condition to warrant further inspection. Advice received by Council was that a further structural surveys were warranted. Based on this advice retrofitting the bridge was kept as an option for consideration through further masterplan work and funding applications.

In September 2020, Council engaged an independent structural engineer to do a Stage 1 – initial on-site assessment. The engineering consultants were engaged in-line with Council’s procurement policy as ‘preferred suppliers’ after having previously conducted surveys for Council on other bridge projects. This onsite assessment raised concerns around the condition and integrity of many of the structural timbers and recommended that a Level 3 assessment would be needed at a cost of $149,000.

Council has taken the heritage aspect of the existing bridge into consideration and has sought advice from an independent heritage consultant. The heritage consultant advised that “if the costs of refurbishment and ongoing maintenance are prohibitive, there are good opportunities for an architecturally splendid new bridge to co-exist nearby the old version.”

He further advised that, “a new bridge would be especially preferred if any engineering review of the old bridge for reuse insisted on significant reinforcements which compromised its existing look and feel.”

Council officers in consultation with Barengi Gadjin Land Council and Cultural Heritage advisors have been undertaking further work on determining the best option and location for the pedestrian crossing of the Wimmera River.

These determinations have included tourism benefits from viewing the old Rail Bridge from an adjacent new bridge or refurbishing and retro-fitting the existing Rail Bridge as the river crossing point.

A new bridge would allow users of the trail opportunities to photograph the rail bridge from various angles.

Hindmarsh Shire Council Mayor, Ron Ismay said “Council fully appreciate the heritage of the Jeparit Rail Bridge and will determine the tourism benefits from viewing the rail bridge and retaining it in its original form for visitors to experience without impacts from modern alterations or refurbishing the existing bridge allowing trail users to cross over it”.

Hindmarsh Shire Council Mayor, Ron Ismay added “Although on a much smaller scale the view of the old Rail Bridge from an adjacent new pedestrian bridge could be compared to viewing the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Viewing the Sydney HarbourBridge and the Golden Gate Bridge are best undertaken from a distance away and not from walking across it”.

For more information, please contact Jeff Woodward, Tourism and Economic Development Officer, on 03 5391 4444 or email jwoodward@hindmarsh.vic.gov.au

Greg Wood

Chief Executive Officer