A “missing link” of shared cycling and walking path would be built between Belmont and Blacksmiths if a Lake Macquarie council proposal wins state government funding.
The council unveiled details of the $9.54 million project on Wednesday at the Belmont end of the Fernleigh Track, which would be start of the proposed 3.5km path extension to the south.
The Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Pathway would be a fully accessible elevated boardwalk winding past Belmont Wetlands, before running parallel to the Pacific Highway to join an existing path at Blacksmiths.
It would include eight Aboriginal sculptures placed along the route, featuring stories and themes depicting the Awabakal people and their interaction with the surrounding environment.
The pathway would create a 27km route of continuous cycle track from Murrays Beach to Adamstown.
Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser said the project was dependent on the state government providing $7.71 million to go with council’s $1.93 million, but would be a huge boost for tourism if the proposal is successful.
“Construction of the Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Pathway will create one of the state’s great coastal walks and rides,” Cr Fraser said.
“Combined with the Fernleigh Track and existing pathways to the south, this 27km route has the potential to become an internationally recognised tourist attraction and a venue for major outdoor fitness events.”
The council will submit the proposal to the state government on Friday ahead of NSW Bike Week, which starts on Saturday.
Bike Week promotes increased use of cycling infrastructure for transport and recreation, and Cr Fraser said building the “missing link” of continuous pathway would provide a safer and viable transport option for Lake Macquarie residents.
“More than 200,000 people a year use the Fernleigh Track. This pathway is certain to increase that number, contributing to a healthier lifestyle for residents and visitors and enhancing active transport links,” she said.
Newcastle Cycleways Movement committee member Michael Golden said the pathway would be a “priceless asset” for commuters. He cycled from his home in Murrays Beach to Hamilton most workdays for six years before retiring two years ago.
“Having a dedicated cycleway all the way into Newcastle is so inviting,” he said. “It really encourages people to get on their bike. Being able to cycle 27km off the road into a major city in Australia is really unheard of.”
A full business case will be lodged after the government’s initial response to the proposal later this year. The council hopes to secure funding by mid-2019.
Swansea MP Yasmin Catley, Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison, Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper and Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery are all supporting the project.