Fernleigh Track to Reach Blacksmiths and Beyond

Newcastle’s beloved Fernleigh Track will soon link to Lake Macquarie’s extensive network of pathways and become a 27km continuous cycle and walkway.

Lake Macquarie City Council will build a 3.5km shared pathway to link Fernleigh Track with Blacksmiths Beach.

Planning is underway with the Fernleigh-Awabakal Shared Track (FAST) southern section work expected in the 2020-2021 financial year.

The entire project, including elevated boardwalks skirting the picturesque Belmont Wetlands, could be finished in 2023.

Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser said the track would fill in a missing link between popular pathways in Lake Macquarie and Newcastle.

The Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Track will create a 27km continuous walking and cycling route stretching from Murrays Beach to Adamstown,” Cr Fraser said.

It will showcase our City, generate active leisure tourism and help promote healthy lifestyles in the local community.”

The NSW Government will contribute $7.4 million to the project through Round Two of its Regional Growth Environment and Tourism Fund.

Council will contribute the remaining funds to ensure the track’s completion. The total project cost is estimated to be approximately $12 million.

Lake Macquarie City Council Deputy CEO Tony Farrell said the project had the backing of local MPs, the RMS, NRMA, Hunter Business Chamber, City of Newcastle, Bahtabah Local Aboriginal Land Council, the Newcastle Cycleways Movement, the Heart Foundation and other peak business and sporting groups.

This project is for our entire community, so we are keen to hear what people have to say about it,” Mr Farrell said.

Extensive community consultation will take place throughout the project to ensure concerns are heard and, where appropriate, acted on.”

The track will create the longest continuous footpath and cycleway in the Hunter Region, opening up potential for Lake Macquarie to host major cycling and other fitness events.

Construction will include multiple entry points, an amenities block and a series of public art installations featuring stories and themes depicting the local Awabakal people and their relationship with the environment.

Following detailed design and approval, work will begin with the track’s southern section – a 1.5km stretch running parallel with the Pacific Highway and ending at Awabakal Avenue at Blacksmiths.

Boardwalk sections will then be built, with the longest running stretch running behind Belmont TAFE, on land Council is in the process of acquiring with TAFE NSW’s support.

The northern section would come next, including offshoot paths leading to bird hides overlooking Belmont Wetlands.

More than 200,000 people already use the Fernleigh Track each year,” Cr Fraser said.

This pathway will increase that number significantly, creating one of the State’s great coastal walks and rides.”

Manager Asset Management Helen Plummer said Council was committed to expanding Lake Macquarie’s shared pathway network.

We know the community wants greater choice in safe cycling and walking options, and we are always looking for opportunities to deliver them,” Ms. Plummer said.

Detailed design will help fine-tune the current proposed route, which runs off the Fernleigh Track terminal at Belmont, behind the Gateway Lifestyle Resort (formerly known as Spinnakers) and behind homes at the end of Brandt Close and Andra Close.

The track then crosses a new bridge to be built over Cold Tea Creek as part of the project, past Beach Street Oval and onto Ocean Park Road.

From there, the route continues past Belmont Cemetery and then heads west onto the Pacific Highway. Exact details of this section of the route are yet to be confirmed.

Council Manager Arts, Culture and Tourism Jacqui Hemsley said much of the route would showcase Lake Macquarie’s natural beauty.

Creation of the Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Track will further enhance our city’s standing as a tourism destination for outdoor recreation and culture,” Ms. Hemsley said.