Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council has allocated $10,000 to consult with 25 farmers and graziers along the route of the proposed Rail Trail from Cootamundra to Tumblong.
The consultation with landholders along the route will be an essential first step in preparing a submission to the NSW government for development of the Rail Trail as a "place-making" project, promoting tourism growth and economic stimulus.
Councillors at the September meeting voted in favour of allocating $10,000 from an existing recreational needs study budget, funded from a NSW government grant, to enable the consultation to go ahead.
In July, Councillor Charlie Sheahan obtained unanimous support from councillors for his proposal of the Rail Trail, when he argued it could bring millions of dollars in economic activity to the region.
He said his decision to investigate the possibility of creating the Rail Trail was because of the covid situation.
"Overseas travel is seriously compromised, and Australians will be seeking activities and attractions locally," he told the council.
"This will give us the opportunity to showcase our region.
"Both state and federal governments are emphasising the importance of jobs and economic stimulus in the wake of the pandemic."
Miriam Crane, the council's manager of community and culture, told the council that mapping of the rail corridor from Cootamundra to Tumblong had been completed, with 25 affected rural landholders shortlisted for initial consultation.
The $10,000 will be used to consider and address "all legitimate concerns" of the landholders.
The next step will be a detailed development plan for the project.
To fund this, the council agreed to apply for $100,000 to be reallocated from the New Council Implementation Fund (NCIF), money provided by the NSW government as an amalgamation sweetener.
The project has been strongly supported by the Cootamundra Tourism Action Group (CTAG).
In a letter tabled at council's September meeting, CTAG Chair Nina Piotrowicz said the group agreed that the tourism benefit would be substantial.
"A Rail Trail would showcase and allow visitors to experience our local government area's extensive seasonal agricultural and natural beauty and parts of our history, all whilst offering an accessible and fun recreational experience," she wrote.
"At present most of our visitors are 'grey nomads' for from an older generation.
"Whilst they are valued visitors to Cootamundra, the opportunity the Rail Trail would present to attract the younger demographic and families should be welcomed.
"By having an attraction that allows the region to showcase itself in a great light, the region may attract new residents, bringing new skills, ideas and economic benefit into the future.
"CTAG is also excited by the opportunities that the Rail Trail would present, with potential for new businesses that support the experience of visitors on the Rail Trail such as transport to/from, kike hire, refereshment services and guided tours etc.
"Increased visitor numbers may also encourage longer opening hours (particularly on the weekend) and expansion of our existing businesses.
"The Rail Trail will connect nicely to many of Cootamundra's other offerings.
"We have a keen bike culture and history, our trainspotting enthusiast opportunities are well documented on YouTube, and we are listed in the top 100 birdwatching areas in Australia.
"Agritourism development is a current focus area for the region, and it is easy to see how the Rail Trail would connect to this space."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.