Rail trail crowdfunding campaign hits target
A COMMUNITY trail running more than 40km from Casino to Eltham is one step closer after the stunning success of a crowdfunding campaign to raise $75,000 in a month.
More than 750 people donated to the campaign, from amounts as little as $2, with the average donation around $50.
Yesterday members of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Association presented a ceremonial cheque of $75,000 to Richmond Valley mayor Robert Mustow and Lismore deputy mayor Gianpiero Battista.
The money will be invested alongside $100,000 already committed by the two councils into a detailed engineering study for the rail trail.
The study, which will assess the cost and design scope of the project, is seen as crucial for attracting public funding.
Rail Trail Association spokeswoman Marie Lawton said the Northern Rivers community had spoken with their generous support.
"They want the rail trail and they want it as soon as possible," Ms Lawton said.
She said it was inspiring for the project to gain so much financial support because asking people to put in money was a big committment.
Cr Mustow hailed the campaign as a "wonderful effort" which make the State Government aware there was strong community support for the venture.
He said he was inspired to get behind the trail after visiting the Otago Central Rail Trail in New Zealand and seeing the revitalisation of the once depressed region and the health of families using the trail.
"I think it will be of benefit to Richmond Valley as a whole."
He said the trail would help bring tourists inland from the coast, and share tourism dollars across the region.
Cr Battista said the campaign's success confirmed his sense that the rail trail the best way forward for the corridor.
He said whether or not the project attracted public funding sooner or later, the engineering study was "money well spent" to make the project shovel ready.
Ideally, it is hoped the project will be receive a share of $100 million available right now through the State Government's Regional Growth - Environment and Tourism fund.
Lismore MP Thomas George has promised to push the project forward in Parliament, declaring he was "fully on board" the rail trail vision.