Chapter 4.3 Trails and Access
The Merri Creek Trail
The Merri Creek Trail, also known as the Merri Path, extends along the main stem of Merri Creek from the Metropolitan Ring Road, where it links with the Metropolitan Ring Road Trail, to the Yarra River where it links with the Yarra River Trail. It is intended to be a shared pathway for pedestrians and recreational cyclists. The ownership, management and maintenance of the Trail rests predominantly with Councils, although the planning and approval of new sections of trail could involve various statutory authorities including, Parks Victoria, VicRoads, Dept of Infrastructure, Melbourne Water and other landowners.
Some sections of the path were first designed and constructed in the early 1980s. At that time design standards for paths were in their infancy and as a consequence some sections of todays Merri Path do not meet current shared pathway design standards. Current standards include those from Austroads and VicRoads, which cover path width, curvature, slope, clearances, signage, surface marking, bollards etc. The intent of theses standards is primarily to provide safety and accessibility.
Councils have progressively been replacing sections of substandard path over recent years with funding from Parks Victoria, VicRoads and Department of Infrastructure, as well as their own rate base. Improvements have also been made to meet access to all abilities standards and improve management access. Map 17 (p. 157) shows the extent of shared paths along waterways in the Merri Catchment.
In 2002 Melbourne Water developed draft guidelines regarding the location of paths and bridges in relation to flood levels and flow rates (Melbourne Water 2002). Path assessment and design should consider these guidelines. The Merri Creek Environmental Significance Overlay requires Melbourne Waters approval for path projects, or otherwise they require a planning permit. In the Draft Guidelines, Melbourne Water flags its ability to object to path projects not conforming with the guidelines.
Whilst formal planning permit applications may not be required for path projects by public authorities, submitting an application will ensure that appropriate parties are provided with an opportunity to comment on path proposals. This is especially necessary where new sections are to be constructed beyond the paths current limits. Planning of paths in these areas will need to take into account a host of factors including land ownership and approved land uses such as quarries.
The risks associated with flooding of the path and bridges need to be managed. There are a range of measures that can be taken to reduce the risk to users, and these measures have been examined in the Merri Creek Trail Review commissioned by the Cities of Darebin, Moreland and Yarra (see below). Chapter 3.1 of this Merri Creek and Environs Strategy also deals with flooding.
The Merri Creek Environmental Significance Overlay, and the Development Guidelines for Merri Creek also inform path planning. For example, the Development Guidelines set a standard (MC8) for shared pathways, which includes setting the design speed to less than 30km/h.
Path design should consider Aboriginal or European heritage sites, flora and fauna, existing infrastructure, and avoid damage to these values.
At present there is no trail along the Merri Creek between the Ring Road and Craigieburn. The trail along the Craigieburn bypass does lead to Craigieburn, but it is at some distance from the Creek and on the opposite side of the freeway from the Creek for much of its length. The Hume Freeway is a major impediment to access to the Merri Creek Parklands for residents of Thomastown and Epping, notwithstanding the pedestrian bridge over the freeway at Barry Road Thomastown.
Extension of the Merri Creek Trail to the urban boundary is an established target of the Merri Creek and Environs Strategy, which is consistent with the State Planning Policy Framework and Council strategies such as the City of Whittleseas 2009 Draft Public Health and Wellbeing Plan. It will be important to preserve the opportunity to extend the trail as urban growth extends to the north.
The whole of the current Merri Creek path is part of Parks Victorias Metropolitan Trail Network, which includes a proposed extension of the path to Craigieburn and along Malcolm Creek. Parks Victorias draft concept plan for the proposed new Merri Creek Park shows this trail but the section north of Patullos Lane as being long-term and subject to feasibility assessment. It identifies Patullos Lane as a key trail linkage to residential areas west of Sydney Road.
In the vicinity of Rushall Station, Fitzroy, the trail is diverted to adjacent roads. In some cases main road bridges are used as Creek crossing points. These diversions interrupt the experience of travelling within the creek valley, and can disorient path users, especially where signage is lacking.
In order to allow for habitat preservation and rehabilitation to be a greater focus on one side of the Creek, the Merri Creek Design Guidelines specify that a shared pathway be constructed on one side of the creek only at any given point.
The Merri Path has proved highly successful as a strategy to bring people to the Merri Creek Parklands. Since the start of construction of the Merri Path, usage has continued to grow most particularly in the inner urban reaches. In the higher usage reaches of the path conflicts between cyclists, pedestrians and dog walkers have become more common.
Austroads standards require that two metre wide paths should only be adopted in areas with very low use. Three metre wide paths are the desirable minimum for shared pathways (and this is supported also by Bicycle Victoria), with wider paths (up to 4 metres) being required in areas of higher usage. These standards aim to provide safe clearances between path users. In the higher usage reaches of the path the parkland is often narrow and could not sustain a 4 m wide path without considerable detriment to the visual and environmental values of the parkland. Other methods of reducing conflicts in these areas need to be considered, including speed limits for cyclists, a white line to remind cyclists and pedestrians to keep to the left, education of path users about path etiquette, enforcement of dog on-lead rules, diversion of commuter cyclists to on-road cycle paths etc.
The Merri Creek Trail Review recommends a minimum constructed path width of 2.4m, with a 0.5m clearance to each side of the path to allow space for pedestrians, cyclists, dog walkers and other trail users to negotiate access. The nature of management of these narrow strips is yet to be clarified as the use exotic lawn species is detrimental to adjacent indigenous plantings and requires regular mowing.
In Fitzroy the Merri Path links to the Capital City Trail which follows the old Inner Circle rail reserve. The path also links to municipal bicycle networks in Yarra, Moreland and Darebin.
Fawkner and Reservoir sections of the Merri Path are less well linked to other trails and open space networks.
The City of Darebins Cycling Strategy aims to encourage increased cycling amongst those who already cycle and a greater take up of cycling amongst those who do not cycle at all, through engineering, educational and promotional activities. Improvements to the cycling network proposed include:
- Improved linkage of the St Georges Road trail to the Merri Creek Trail,
- A bridge at Fyffe Street over Merri Creek to better link the Darebin and Moreland cycle networks,
- Improved linkage from Merri Creek along Broadhurst Ave Reservoir to Darebin Creek.
The proposed bridge at Fyffe Street is highly constrained by flood management issues associated with the proximity of the local levee system and would be unlikely to be approved by Melbourne Water. This matter has been recognised in the Trail Review.
Moreland adopted the Moreland Bike Plan in 2000. The plan included a survey of users of the Merri Path, which amongst other findings ranked suggestions by cyclists for improvement of the path (see Figure 1 below).
Figure 1 - Ranked suggestions for improvement
The Moreland Bike Plan recommends:
- Staged path-widening for the south part of the Merri Creek path with line-marking;
- Sealing of the northern section of the Merri Path;
- Development of a shared path code for Merri Creek and other off-road cycling paths;
- Regular maintenance to deal with overgrown vegetation and cracked pavements;
- A signage program that includes both directional and interpretive signs along the Merri Creek route; and
- Improvement to linkages (e.g. at Allard Park East Brunswick),
Merri Creek Trail Review
The Merri Creek Trail Review (see action TA18) was commenced in 2006. It audited and analysed the existing trail and associated infrastructure between the Yarra and the Metropolitan Ring Road
A final version of the report was released in October 2007. The review audited the trail and sought community input to identifying issues relating to the trail. The review indicated that usage of the path drops off rapidly downstream of St Georges Road, and north of Bell Street (see Figure 2, although this conclusion is based on limited survey information, and may be skewed by the survey method used.)
Figure 2 - Sections of path and their total usage.
The overall key recommendations were to:
- Develop and install consistent warning and directional signage and remove redundant signage from along the Creek.
- Develop and implement an improved path maintenance program.
- Implement signed on road bypass routes for areas subject to regular flooding to retain continuous public access in all conditions. Provide advance warning of flooded structures or sections of path using flood markers and recommended control structures.
- Upgrade existing path to minimum 2.5m wide with 0.5m clearance either side to vegetation.
- Investigate options for secondary walking routes to improve looped tracks and reduce congestion on the main trail while protecting existing environmental values.
- Undertake staged replacement/upgrade of bridges, boardwalks and underpasses to meet Australian Standards and Melbourne Water Guidelines.
The package of works recommended totals approximately $5.3 million, but would be implemented in a staged fashion according to identified priorities.
The sections of trail identified as being the highest overall priority for work were Rushall Station to Heidelberg Road, Blyth St to St Georges Road and St Georges Road to Rushall Station. However, improving the condition of the trail between Mahoneys Road and Broadhurst Avenue and better dealing with topography between Edgars Creek and Murray Road were also high priorities.
The highest priorities for improving the safety of bridges were the Hamersley Ct footbridge, the Broadhurst Avenue footbridge and the De Chene Reserve footbridge, although many other bridges also needed improvement.
The standards and design solutions identified in the Trail Review can be applied to other planned and existing sections of waterway trail in the catchment, and reference should be made to it for that purpose.
Standards identified in the Merri Creek Trail Review 2007
- Minimum 2.4m wide
- Retain 0.5m clearance to either side
- Retain head clearance to 2.4m
- Retain minimum curvature inside radius of 15m for a design speed of less than 30km
- Meet AS1428 Access and Mobility Standard gradients of 1:20 where possible
- Meet Melbourne Water Guidelines in respect to flooding where possible
Map 17 - Shared Pathways in the Merri Catchment
Sections of Edgars Creek between Leamington Street and Glasgow Avenue in Reservoir, and between Main Street and German Avenue in Thomastown have relatively short sections of shared pathway.
In 1993, Melbourne Parks and Waterways (now Parks Victoria) undertook a feasibility study for a shared pathway linking Merri Creek to Diamond Creek, via the Maroondah Aqueduct. The study selected a preferred route from Merri Creek along Edgars Creek to Edwardes Lake Park, then following a barrel-drained tributary of Edgars Creek known as the Merrilands Main Drain to High Street, then joining the Maroondah Aqueduct.
Edgars Creek was chosen as the preferred route as it was considered more scenic and therefore lent itself to recreational cycling and walking, and the alternative route had more on-road trail and road crossings.
No action has yet been taken to construct a path between Merri Creek and Edwardes Lake Park, however a walking path does exist between Edwardes Lake Park and High Street along the Merrilands Drain.
The City of Darebin Cycling Strategy includes the construction of a shared pathway along Edgars Creek from the Moreland Boundary to the Whittlesea Boundary. Together with the proposed trail along Edgars Creek from Cooper Street north to Craigieburn Road East shown on comprehensive development plans for this area (mentioned above), much of Edgars Creek will eventually have a shared pathway. Future planning should ensure these sections are linked together and linked to the Merri Creek path.
Aitken Creek in Craigieburn has a shared trail along it within Craigieburn which stops to the west of the Northern Railway Line. Connecting this trail to a future extension of the Merri Creek Trail would be difficult (as it would need to cross the Railway and the Hume Highway) but highly desirable. The trail is being extended upstream as development proceeds west from Craigieburn.
Malcolm Creek in Craigieburn also has a shared trail which is being extended upstream as development proceeds. Its connection to a future Merri Creek Trail extension would require acquisition of land along Malcolm Creek downstream of the Hume Highway, and crossings of the Highway and Hume Freeway.
Other planned trails in the catchment include those along the upper Edgars Creek through the Aurora development and the Cooper Street Employment Area. Little formal pathway exists along the lower Edgars Creek, with the exception of short sections in Thomastown, and also around Edwardes Lake, and north as far as Glasgow Ave, Reservoir.
There are also short shared trail sections along Taylors Creek (in gravel) and in Hadfield Park in Wallan. Paths are planned along the Wallan Creek in Wallan Community Park. Opportunities for future downstream linkage to a future Merri Path extension should be retained wherever possible.
Opportunities for future trail construction along other tributaries should be retained wherever possible.
Apart from the formal shared pathway network, there is a network of shorter and lesser standard links and pedestrian paths throughout the Creek parklands. These need to be designed to link with the main shared pathways, and to parkland access points, points of interest, recreation facilities etc. These paths also need to be designed to be safe for users, and appropriate standards applied.
The Cities of Darebin and Moreland together published a printed guide to the Merri Path in 2007.
Directional signage has been provided in some locations but is often confusing, vandalised or absent. Improved signage and printed guides are needed to meet shared path standards, orient path users and give direction to features and nearby places and facilities such as toilets. This would assist and benefit first-time users especially. The Merri Creek Trail Review recommends the preparation of an integrated signage strategy for the Merri Creek.
There has long been an interest in the development of a walking route to the headwaters of Merri Creek, generally along the Creek alignment. Whilst some sections are in public ownership (e.g. the west bank for approx 2km south of Donnybrook Road), most of this reach is in private ownership. Issues include safety of users, protection of private owners from liability, provision of basic facilities for fence crossing (gates or styles), path surfacing, cost, demand, maintenance etc. Setting up this path would require negotiation with private land owners before it could be feasible, although it could be implemented in stages. A standard shared pathway north from Craigieburn would be prohibitively expensive and at least at this stage is not under consideration. Establishment of this path would require a specific investigation of the issues involved, and a carefully designed strategy for its staged achievement.
Access to open space
Accessibility for park users in Fawkner, Campbellfield, Thomastown and Reservoir falls well short of the standard (MC6) in the Merri Creek Design Guidelines which specifies that access to the creek parklands should be provided at least every 400m. Achievement of these standards may not be possible due to road layouts, however opportunities should be sought in these areas to improve accessibility.
Austroads Guide to Traffic Engineering Practice, Part 14 Bicycles
City of Darebin (2005) Darebin Cycling Strategy 2005-2009
Dunn, A. (1993) Trail Feasibility Study Merri Creek to Diamond Creek Via Maroondah Aqueduct, Melbourne Parks and Waterways Parks and Waterways Planning Division.
Kinhill Pty Ltd Merri Path Design Guide 1982.
Merri Creek Management Committee, Understanding planning issues along the Merri Creek and Policy: Development Guidelines for the Merri Creek May 2004.
Parks Victoria (2002) Linking People and Spaces.
Melbourne Water (2002) Draft Melbourne Water Guidelines for Approval of Constructed Paths (along waterways & within Melbourne Water property).
Sinclair Knight Merz (2000) Moreland Bike Plan, Moreland City Council.
Thompson Berrill Landscape Design P/L (2007) Merri Creek Trail Review Report. October 2007.
VicRoads Cycle Notes 12 Design Standards for Bicycle Facilities
VicRoads Cycle Notes 3 Shared Bicycle/Pedestrian Path Design
VicRoads Cycle Notes No 10 (Behavioural Signs)
VicRoads Cycle Notes No 11 (Directional Signs)
1. The trail is sub-standard in terms of width, slope, curvature, sightlines and flood levels and consequently unsafe in places.
2. On-road sections of the trail disrupt the quality for users as a haven from traffic and noise.
3. The Merri Path at certain locations is below the 1 in 5 year flood line. Hazards to users from flooding in these areas must be managed.
4. The location of parts of the trail within the flood zone increases maintenance requirements and costs, particularly if the trail is not constructed of concrete.
5. Location of the path adjacent to the creek can limit opportunities for stream rehabilitation and improvement of the riparian fringe and habitat. Consideration thus needs to be given to use of ridge lines and other higher vantage points out of the floodplain. However, recreational users like being close to the Creek and such opportunities can be provided at intervals. These factors especially need to be taken into account where path renovation and relocation is under consideration.
6. Sections of the trail do not meet accessibility standards for wheelchairs and pushers.
7. Path maintenance and upgrades require large investments by Councils.
8. Proposed trail additions north of the Metropolitan Ring Road require detailed design and considerable funding.
9. No trails along tributaries link to the main Merri path.
10. Access to the creek corridor is hampered by a lack of access points, especially north of Queens Parade, Fawkner. The standard in the Design Guidelines of an access point at least every 400m is far from being met.
11. Privately owned frontages in the upper catchment limit access to the creek corridor, especially north of the Metropolitan Ring Road.
12. Management authorities need vehicular access to the Creek, but access should be discouraged and restricted for trail bikes, "joy riders" in cars and for rubbish dumping. However, the use of bollards on shared paths is no longer considered safe unless they are accompanied by warning measures.
13. Signage along the trail is substandard, poorly maintained and insufficient to provide orientation and direction to users.
14. The trail is popular with dog walkers, pedestrians and cyclists, but the interests of the three groups are not always compatible, especially where cyclists do not display due care for pedestrians, but also when dogs are off-lead and pedestrians wander all over the path. This is especially problematic where sections of the Merri Creek Trail carry commuter cycle traffic due to its link into other cycle routes such as the St. Georges Road Principle Bicycle Network and the Capital City Trail.
15. Path construction poses a range of threats to environmental and cultural values. Paths must be designed and constructed carefully to manage these threats.
16. Inconsistencies in style of signage between municipalities detract from a unified Merri Creek style.
17. Rogue unsafe cyclists are ignoring information provided and should be the subject of enforcement action.
1. Provide a high quality network of parks and open space across urban and rural areas managed for community and environmental benefit (see RCS-LO5)
2. Provide recreational cycling and walking trails along Creek corridors.
1. To develop a continuous, off-road shared pathway of consistent and safe design standard on one side at any point of Merri Creek from the Yarra River to the Urban Growth Boundary.
2. To implement Parks Victorias Metropolitan Trail Network within the Merri Catchment.
3. To implement the recommendations of the Trail Review.
4. To develop a continuous walking route from the northern end of the Merri Creek Trail to the headwaters of the Merri Creek.
5. To preserve environmentally sensitive areas by locating paths away from these areas by careful design, and by directing recreational users to more appropriate areas.
6. To provide a safe environment for the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.
7. To develop trail links between the main Merri Path and new and existing (i.e. Malcolm Creek, Aitken Creek, Edgars Creek) trails, public transport routes, roads and other open space areas as development proceeds in the northern suburbs and opportunities arise.
8. To promote safety and courtesy between cyclists and pedestrians and provision of information about the trail network through the production of guides.
9. To provide access points, paths and facilities for differently abled and special need users, consistent with open space management zone objectives.
10. To provide shared path standard bridges at regular intervals to link urban areas on the opposite side of the Creek to the Merri Path.
11. To design, develop and maintain a network of other linkages of a range of standards from grassed walking routes to full shared pathway, linking to the main shared paths, access points, points of interest, recreational facilities etc.
12. To provide signage to meet shared pathway standards, orient path users, direct users to facilities and to interpret the natural and heritage features of the Creek.
13. To publish and make available printed guides to the Merri Creek and its tributaries as trail development proceeds and makes the waterways publicly accessible.
14. To provide for management access requirements in design of the path network.
15. To consult with stakeholders including the community about significant path upgrades or extensions.
16. By 2012, extend the Merri Path from Mahoneys Road to Galada Tamboore and provide a circuit walk around Galada Tamboore linking to the south, west and east residential areas.
17. By 2012, create a map for the public of Galada Tamboore.
18. By 2010, a continuous sealed trail is constructed between the Yarra River and Mahoneys Road.
19. In urban areas shared trail standard crossings across the Creeks (on shared trail bridges or road bridges) are no further apart than 1 km and are located above 1 in 10 year floods.
20. Access points to Creek parklands in residential areas are no further apart than 400m.
See Section E page 206.
 Thompson Berrill Landscape Design (2007) Merri Creek Trail Review Draft Report, June 2007
 Parks Victoria 2002 Map 4 Metropolitan Trail Network
 Parks Victoria 2006
 Parks Victoria 2006 Map 5 Park Visitor Experience
 Thompson Berrill Landscape Design 2007
 Page 16 recommendation B220.127.116.11
 Dunn (1993) p13
 City of Darebin (2005) p48.
 As illustrated on the Aurora Development Plan Part 2 Northern Section VicUrban 15/5/07. Aurora is east of the Hume Freeway, between OHerns Road and Craigieburn Road East.
 As illustrated on the Cooper Street Employment Area Comprehensive Development Plan Panel Version, City of Whittlesea 2005. The Cooper Street Employment Area is located north of Cooper Street Epping, south of OHerns Road, east of the Hume Freeway and west of Yale Drive. It spans Edgars Creek.