Trees felled in rail trail sabotage

POLICE are investigating the sabotage of the North- East Rail Trail last Friday or Saturday.

The trail is a Rotary Club of Scottsdale project that follows the disused Legerwood to Tonganah rail corridor and aims to attract mountain bike tourism to the North-East.

Saboteurs felled five large trees across the trail, leaving another balanced precariously against a smaller tree, rendering the trail unpassable, about 12 kilometres from Tonganah towards Legerwood.

Rail trail chairman Robin Thompson said that the club was alerted to the action on Saturday afternoon.

"A tourist with quite a heavy load on his bike was taking the rail trail as an easier route from Scottsdale than the Tasman Highway and Billycock Hill," Mr Thompson said.

"If that partially felled tree had come down when the rider was there, it would have been disastrous."

Mr Thompson said that most people supported the concept, but among those who opposed it, there were some irrational claims being made.

He said some of the arguments being put forward included: `It will disturb my peace, it will bring undesirable elements who will leave rubbish and disturb or steal livestock.

"There are four landowners between Tonganah and Legerwood around which the trail will go.

"One is an abattoir which has much easier access from the road than the rail trail and we've offered to take the trail below the railway bank so the bank and the trees will screen the property."

Mr Thompson said that the Rotary Club had been negotiating with the community for the past six months, but had found no alternative to which all parties agreed and had decided to submit its development application using the rail corridor.

"The sabotage is disappointing for a community that is battling for new business and some sort of economic future," he said.

Max Rainsford opened a bicycle shop in Scottsdale because of the business he believes the trail will generate.

"It's disappointing that a tourist I especially sent that way, was unable to get through because of this act - it reflects not just on the North-East, but all of Tasmania," he said.

Mr Thompson said that Rotary Club members spent much of Monday clearing the track.

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