30 November 2023

Albury's Eastern Hill a step closer to revitalisation

| Vanessa Hayden
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Artist's impression of new lookout facility

An artist’s impression in the draft Eastern Hill Activation Master Plan of what the Rotary lookout could look like when the area undergoes its proposed overhaul. Photo: Albury Council.

Albury Council endorsed the final Eastern Hill Activation Master Plan at its meeting on Monday (27 November).

The plan aims to enhance community access to the Eastern Hill area by improving traffic and pedestrian safety, and upgrading carparks, walking trails and lookout areas.

It also includes the establishment of a small shared-use trail network for walking, running and bike riding, along with revegetation works.

Eastern Hill is located to the east of the Albury CBD and allows for impressive views of Lake Hume and the Kiewa Valley from the ridgeline. Linked with Mungabareena Reserve by the Hume and Hovell Walking Track, the area is regularly used by bushwalkers and trail runners, mountain bikers and visitors to the region.

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In early 2022, consultation was undertaken to hear from the community about how they used the area, and what they saw as key opportunities to enhance the location.

The consultation found that many people enjoyed Eastern Hill for walking, and to a lesser extent bike riding. The scenic views, walking trails, bushland setting, and lookout were identified as great features of the area. Many people also remarked that trails were uneven, poorly marked and overgrown, which created barriers to access. Public amenities and revegetation in areas were also identified as needing attention.

The draft Eastern Hill Activation Master Plan was then developed considering the community’s feedback. Proposed upgrades included:

  • Improvements to traffic safety on East Street
  • Enhancements to the entry experience
  • Upgrades to the track surface, drainage and access including boardwalks, steps and handrails
  • Improvements to the Rotary and trig point lookouts including new public amenities, seating, shelters and barbecue areas
  • Creation of a small network of mountain bike trails
  • Track realignment and development of additional pathways
  • Creation of a tank art trail
  • Interpretive and wayfinding signage
  • Revegetation.

Council’s endorsement of the plan this week followed a two-month review by a community advisory committee comprising representatives from interested community groups, including the Friends of Eastern Hill group and Albury Wodonga Mountain Bikers Club, and two councillors.

Albury Mayor Kylie King said the plan was designed to enhance accessibility while preserving the natural beauty that Eastern Hill is treasured for.

“We acknowledge that there are elements of this plan that not everyone has agreed with,” she said.

“I want to thank all the members of the community advisory committee for their input into the plan.

“Your contributions have been invaluable in shaping the final document and helping to ensure that community views were heard and considered.”

Accessibility underpinned much of the committee’s discussion, with panel members emphasising the importance of the reserve being accessible to all community members.

The committee supported four of the five elements of the plan, with some amendments.

Councillors voted to add two clauses, requiring officers to undertake a biodiversity assessment and full Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment prior to detailed design, along with further community consultation, including with the newly formed Aboriginal Advisory Committee.

While it didn’t reach consensus on the provision of mountain biking trails and facilities, the majority of panel members supported the provision for mountain biking to some degree.

As a result, the final plan includes three shared-use trails, reduced from the original five proposed dedicated mountain bike trails, which will be designed to cater for multiple users, including walkers, runners and riders.

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Overall, Council included 14 amendments to the plan based on feedback from the community.

The plan will now undergo a range of environmental and heritage assessments before being implemented in stages over the next five-plus years.

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