Riverton group aims to keep Ports Race Track history alive

Leyland Willis (12), of Riverton, enjoys a hike through the Ports Race Track. Photo: Supplied

RIVERTON’S Janet Willis is taking the means of exploring her backyard a step further.

Her property backed on to the Ports Race Track which was a trail in need of maintenance and repair.

About seven years ago her interest in the track grew and it quickly became her favourite place to run.

The trail followed the Ports Race Waterways and led to Round Hill which was a hub for Chinese gold miners in the 19th century.

The “overgrown” bush walk featured some old historical artefacts such as old mineshafts, stamper batteries, tram rails and tram bridges from the late 1880s.

While out on a run, Mrs Willis realised the Department of Conservation (Doc) had built a new bridge and path.

“Spending a lot of time there I began speaking to locals and realised the trail’s history and I thought, can’t let it fade into the background’,” Mrs Willis said.

In an attempt to preserve the trail’s history, she formed a sub-committee of about eight people from the area who wanted to help support the track’s restoration.

Some of their ideas for improvements to the trail included walking tracks and mountainbike tracks accessible to everyone.

They also hoped to label, mark and fence off historical artefacts.

“We want to establish an entity so that we can apply for funds and grants, but at the moment we are working alongside Doc and the historians to come up with a plan to help restore the trail.”

There was an “overwhelming amount of support” from about 40 people in the community to clear and clean the track, she said.

Mrs Willis believed the project was important as the trail was a “unique” part of the region’s history.

“A lot of people don’t know it is here but I think the history needs to be explored and the trail can bring more people into the area.

“For now, the starting point is preserving the track, but how cool would it be if people could go in to the forest, follow the history and signs and learn about what used to be here? This is why I think it is important for people to support the restoration of the track.”