|The Wimmera River Discovery Trail is set to bypass Jeparit’s iconic railway bridge in favour of a new bridge located near the Ski Club closer to where the river flows into Lake Hindmarsh.
At a meeting last week, the Hindmarsh Shire Council voted on the new structure following the presentation of a report outlining the cost of retro-filling a pedestrian walkway to the existing bridge compared to the cost and benefits of a new one.
Although it was intended to utilize the existing structure fitted with a suitable new walkway, and the bridge’s owner Victrack had granted approval for this, the recommendation from the Project Control Group is that the anticipated $150,000 cost of this option should be used to construct a new bridge.
Following consultation with Barengi Gadjin Land Council, Parks Victoria, and Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, a site approximately 650 metres north of the Jeparit Ski Club has been recommended for a new bridge. This preferred site was chosen after an option further upstream was identified as impacting significant cultural areas on the western side of the river.
The new bridge and the new alignment of the trail will take users closer to the mouth of the river. Although the bridge will be built to the minimum height recommendations not to impact boating and skiing on that part of the river, it will provide views over the lake and along the well-known Four Mile Beach.
This recommended location will also provide better vehicle access for those just interested in experiencing a shorter walk or bike ride around the river mouth area of the trail.
The cost of the new bridge is covered in the existing funding for the trail from the Federal and State Governments and the Hindmarsh Shire Council, and with a new structure, it will be easier to meet current standards for the bridge.
Above - A possible design for the new bridge.
Although the railway bridge will no longer form part of the train itself, it will remain a significant landmark along the route with appropriate signage outlining its history.
The railway bridge (below) was constructed in 1912 when the railway branch line was built from Jeparit to Lorquon and saw regular use up until 1986 when the line was closed. Although the deck has since been removed, the rest of the structure remains intact, and it remains one of the best and easier to access examples of one of these structures in Victoria.
This bridge also compliments the old road bridge near the Golf Clubhouse which was built in 1891 and is the only surviving example of its kind in Victoria.