A COMMUNITY group can finally celebrate after a major Great Ocean Road tourism project in the pipeline for 15 years was given the green light.
Corangamite Shire Council awarded a $224,569 contract to a Melbourne design company to create the first detailed design of the long-anticipated Twelve Apostles Trail.
The trail would stretch from Timboon to Port Campbell and would unlock the capacity for visitors to access the coast from the train in Camperdown.
The Twelve Apostles Trail committee lobbied for the project for 15 years to no avail and committee member David Pope said the group welcomed the news after its tireless campaigning.
"This makes the trail project as shovel-ready as it can possibly be," he said.
"There's lots of large-scale investment planned for the Great Ocean Road, such as significant visitor centre upgrades but unfortunately those projects are still years away, whereas this project is very much ready to go.
"It's very much a community-led project and the return on investment is $2.5 for every $1. For every dollar spent on the project there's huge value coming back into the community.
"More broadly it encourages visitors to actually engage with the area, rather than just driving from Point A to Point B to get a photo."
Just over $1 million has been allocated in council's 2019-20 budget to pay for stage one of the project.
Deputy Mayor Cr Ruth Gstrein said the council had been trying to get the project off the ground since 2007.
"The project has been in the works since 2007 when it was first mooted, I can remember doing a photo shoot on it for The Standard," she said.
"Here we are 12 years later, it really is a no-brainer. It has the potential to move out to the Twelve Apostles and reduce traffic along the Great Ocean Road.
"People could come down on the train from Melbourne, get off at Camperdown and take the Camperdown to Timboon trail all the way to the coast."
Once the detailed design is done the council will have to find the funds to build the trail, which will have to come primarily from the state and federal government.
Cr Gstrein said there was still no guaranteed money from the Geelong City Deal.
"We have to call on the state and federal government to look closely at this project as well as the state of the roads," she said
"Local governments are the best people to deliver projects on time and on budget, they couldn't do much worse than putting the money into the hands of local government to stimulate the local economy."
Thompson Berrill Landscape Design won the tender against five other companies.
Stage one of the Twelve Apostles Trail project has a two-year staged approach. On top of the $1.03 million allocated by council in the ensuing budget, a further $666,000 has been forecast in 2020-21 towards the second year of construction of the trail.
The trail is estimated to cost $6.1 million with funding from local, state and federal government.
Cr Simon Illingworth said the project marks a wider plan to pedestrianise the Great Ocean Road.
"It's the correct direction for our tourism to take, you only have to look at the massive car parks that are clogging up. There's got to be a better way," he said.
Mayor Cr Neil Trotter said the trail would encourage overnight stays along the Shipwreck Coast.
"We've been calling out for increased revenue from stay-overs and domestic tourism, this is one very good way of doing it," he said.