While it might not be time to saddle up just yet, work on the Fernleigh Track extension has begun.
Known as the Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Track (FAST), the project will eventually form a 27 kilometre shared pathway between Adamstown and Murrays Beach.
The first stage of the $12 million project including the construction of 1.6 kilometre of a 3 metre-wide pathway on the eastern side of the Pacific Highway, began this week, with initial works located between Hilda Street at Belmont South and Awabakal Avenue at Blacksmiths.
The addition will ultimately connect with the region’s most iconic pathway, the Fernleigh Track – the former Belmont Railway line used for coal haulage and passenger transport until 1991.
Named after the Fernleigh Colliery, a coalmine located in the area between 1922 and 1932, the track will undertake yet another facelift.
Bus stop upgrades, installation of a barrier separating track users from vehicles and a formalised on-road cycle lane for accomplished cyclists will also be included.
Detailed design work is also nearing completion for the project’s northern section, from the end of the existing Fernleigh Track at Belmont to Hilda Street.
Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser said that once finished, the new FAST would provide a missing link between the Fernleigh Track and Blacksmiths to Murrays Beach, creating the longest continuous active transport route in the Hunter Region.
“This will be an iconic piece of infrastructure, taking in the spectacular Belmont Lagoon and recognising the area’s rich cultural heritage,” Cr Fraser said.
The project is partly funded under the NSW Government’s Regional Growth – Environment and Tourism Fund.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Taylor Martin said more than $300 million had been invested through the fund to support NSW projects that enhanced local tourism.
“The FAST project will create an iconic tourism drawcard, it will highlight the area’s natural beauty and it will recognise the deep cultural significance of Belmont Lagoon and surrounding areas,” Mr Martin said.
Work on the southern section will take place 7am-6pm Monday-Friday, and 8am-1pm on Saturdays.
Southbound traffic along the Pacific Highway will be limited to one lane with a reduced 40km/h speed limit during works periods.
Lake Macquarie City Council Deputy CEO Tony Farrell said the southern section was expected to be complete in mid-2022.
“We’re hoping to get started on the northern section early next year, including a wetland boardwalk taking in Belmont Lagoon and its abundant birdlife,” he said.
Belmont Lagoon is central to an Aboriginal Dreamtime story known as ‘the night the moon cried’.
Discussions are ongoing with Bahtabah Local Aboriginal Land Council about how best to recognise this story, and broader local Aboriginal history, as part of the FAST project and its public art element.
Construction of the entire Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Track is expected to be finished by September 2023.
Go to lakemac.com.au for more information.