Bike path invasion

Bike path invasion

Charles Connley loves the High Country where he grew up and still lives in Omeo.

He comes from a family who has a long connection to the area.

Mr Connley’s parents, Avril and Ron Connley, now in their 80s, live on the family farm, on the aptly named Connelys Road.

The Connleys run sheep and cattle on their 2000-acre spread and lease hundreds of additional acres of Crown land on Mount Sam that adjoins their property.  

Mr Connley has his own plot of two acres on the side of Mount Mesley. It rests idyllically beside cattle yards his father built many years ago, opposite the intersection of Mt Sam Road and Connleys Road.

Mr Connley has placed a portable classroom on his piece of paradise, which he rescued from Bendigo and hopes to one day live in.

However, he is upset and concerned about the Omeo mountain bike plan encroaching on his small parcel of land.

Mr Connley says the proposed bike path will surround his property on three sides and he claims to have repeatedly told the bike path’s planners that he doesn’t want his quiet paradise invaded.

East Gippsland Shire Council last week received a comprehensive 12-month master plan, which includes the track and trail design.

More than 120 kilometres of the trail has been designed and assessed as part of the masterplan process.

While the main congregation point for cyclists is at Livingstone Park in Omeo, where people park their cars and begin and finish the mountain bike tracks, a secondary trail head area at Mount Sam is also included in the masterplan.

Located on Mount Sam Road, Mr Connley says its proposed location is close to the intersection with Connleys Road and he’s anxious about the public overlooking his small plot of land.

Speaking to the Advertiser last week, he said: “If they build the bike path, I would have to give up the idea of living there which is essentially what I want to do.”

Mr Connley said in the original plan for the bike path “every track junctioned at my doorstep”.

However, after conveying his concerns to those tasked with mapping the bike track there have since been some small concessions. 

In a message sent to Cr Natalie O’Connell last year, Mr Connley wrote: “Could you please make sure these mountain bike people understand that putting a track within 20 metres of my boundary is not acceptable“.

Mr Connley requested at least 300 metres, but said, “frankly I’d rather a kilometre”. 

He wants the secondary trail head, where a car park will be built, at least 500 metres away. He says a spot, further up Mt Sam Road, about 700 metres from the intersection, would be more appropriate and he’s also identified another alternative further down Connleys Road.

To add to Mr Connley’s frustration he says there had been no communication that the secondary trail head/carpark was going to be located in Mt Sam Road, which he claims will overlook his property.

“I only found out about it by accident.

“Why do I have to suffer, why do I lose.” Mr Connley says with the thousands of acres available for the project managers to play with in designing the bike track, “they don’t need to build tracks near my place or park cars there”.

Last month he sent an email to all councilors reiterating his concerns.

The Connley family say the secondary trail head has taken them by surprise and now remain concerned that their existing grazing leases could also be in jeopardy.

“It’s sheer bad manners, they didn’t say a word to us,” Mrs Connley said.

“Our private land goes right across Mt Sam.” Ron Connley said the leases had been available to them for “50 odd years”.

His son is more direct.

“I’ve said repeatedly, I can stomach some bike riders on my leases if they can handle the fact that there’ll be cattle and sheep on there occasionally,” he said.

The project area is situated on Crown land currently managed by the Department of Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Parks Victoria, and the Mount Mesley Reserve encompassing Livingstone Park, which is managed by council.

The project is being financed by all levels of government and is expected to provide an economic boost to tourism in East Gippsland.

East Gippsland Shire mayor, Cr John White, says the project continues to receive high levels of community interest.

In response to the Connley’s concerns about the secondary trail head on Mount Sam Road, the shire’s general manager of assets and environment, Fiona Weigall, said the location was selected “to minimise any impact on amenity and landscape visual quality from properties located on Connleys Road”.

Ms Weigall confirmed the secondary trail head “will be the starting point for several trails and also provide emergency access”.

“The location of the secondary trail head on Mount Sam Road resulted following earlier consultation with landowners in the area.” This was despite Mr Connelly raising this as an issue," Ms Weigall said.

IMAGE: Plans to place a secondary trail head and carpark for the Omeo Mountain Bike path on Mount Sam Road has upset Charles Connley, whose small acreage is located at the intersection of Connleys and Mt Sam roads. K347-6587