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1001 reasons to step up

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By Kate Taylor

A plan to create a recreation paradise at Bald Hill is 1001 steps closer.
A feasibility study presented to the February 5 council meeting included a concept plan with mountain bike trails, an adventure play-space, destination dining and a 1001-steps walking trail at the site.
The idea started back in 2018, when a scoping report was done, followed by the feasibility study which was completed late last year with Sport and Recreation Victoria funding alongside council dollars.
Now, proposals in the concept plan are to both provide recreational opportunities for locals and also ways to attract visitors to boost the local economy.
Mountain bike trails are recommended – both gravity and cross country – as is a 1001-steps destination walking trail, an all-accessibility trail and lookout, with proposed picnic and BBQ areas.
When construction is complete, the projected annual site visitation is more than 347,000 people and would have a total construction cost, including recreational and commercial parts, of $12.38 million.
Although the construction cost is large, the ongoing economic benefit is estimated to be $6.8 million annually, with a during-construction boom of $23.28 million.
The financial benefits include ongoing employment at the site as well as tourist dollars.
The visitation numbers are based on the current population of Bacchus Marsh, Melton and the western fringe of Melbourne and do not take into account the future growth of the areas and therefore likely increased visitation.
The project is proposed to be completed over five stages, with funding also being sought from other parties.
Councillors voted to adopt the feasibility study and move on to the design phase – however not before some reassurances were sought by Cr Sullivan.
The West Ward councillor noted the significant cost of the project and wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t impact on existing projects.
Infrastructure General Manager Phil Jeffrey said the actual recommendation is just to move to the design phase.
“The fact is we have a significant amount of large-ticket items, the Bacchus Marsh Racecourse Reserve, collectively – and this could clog up the system so to speak. I will take the managers reassurance this won’t happen – I don’t want it to impact on other projects,” Cr Sullivan said.
The design phase will involve creating a masterplan, which has not yet been included in council’s budget.


THE BALD HILL PROPOSAL

*The $750,000 mountain bike cross country course will deliver up to 15 kms of flowing single track at beginner and intermediate standard. The course will include land north west of the Gravity Park. The cross-country course is intended to be a regional level facility to support local and regional riders. The course will include undulating downhill and switchbacks with uphill climbing limited to three per cent. The aim of the cross-country course is to support growth in the mountain biking sector. As skills improve cyclists can transition to include circuits of the Gravity Park as well.

*The $280,000 establishment of a 1001-steps walk that links Halletts Way at the base of Bald Hill with the peak of Bald Hill, similar to the experience of the 1000 steps in the Dandenong Ranges. Landscaping and vegetation plantings are required to create a sheltered and quality experience. The delivery of a themed 1001 steps, potentially with an indigenous interpretive experience, will set the walk aside from others offered in Melbourne.

*A $300,000 all abilities trail will be delivered on top of Bald Hill which provides an open and largely level site for easy walking, cycling and other activities. The all abilities trail is proposed to be a sealed trail, three metres in width and up to 2 kilometres in length. It is proposed that the trail will include a sculptural element to add to the visitor experience. Views along the trail will extend across the Moorabool Valley towards Melbourne.

*A commercially operated Adventure Park/Playspace will be delivered on site in proximity to the restaurant/café. It is envisaged that this will be a destination in its own right and strengthen the family market visitation to the site. There is potential to investigate the delivery of adventure activity by the private sector on site.

*A $1.5 million open air events space will be delivered on the top of Bald Hill providing a scenic high amenity events space for festivals, markets, car clubs. The events space will cater for up to 5000 people during peak events. This will also serve as a staging ground for other outdoor focused events such as mountain biking events, orienteering etc.

*A $2.8 million restaurant /café function centre is proposed for the south east side of Bald Hill, allowing extensive views from the facility over the Moorabool valley towards the You Yangs and Melbourne. The restaurant/café function centre will provide for a high-quality local food experience servicing a variety of site users and destination food visitors. It is envisaged that the restaurant be delivered by the private sector, with services and parking delivered by the public sector.

*The $1,050,000 Bald Hill Gravity Mountain Bike Park will be a destination mountain bike facility on the southern side of Bald Hill and include the former quarry land. The gravity mountain bike park will be unique in the context of Victoria, forming the first master planned gravity and slopestyle park in close proximity to Melbourne. The disturbed nature of the site will allow for the establishment of high-end slopestyle, traditional downhill and flow trails from the summit of Bald Hill.

*Picnic and BBQ areas will be provided throughout the site. This will attract visitors to the site specifically for these purposes and may also be utilised by those visiting the site for a specific purpose.

*The project also includes a $1 million visitor hub, $800,000 for the sculpture trail, $900,000 for lookout points and $3 million for site infrastructure.