Kiama Council's decision to divert the proposed Jamberoo Valley cycleway away from the Minnamurra River has been slammed by members of the council's own walking tracks and cycleway committee as "short sighted", and the new plan described as "second rate".
In July 2012, the $470,000 section of the cycleway connecting Gainsborough Chase, North Kiama to Swamp Road, which winds alongside the Minnamurra River, was opened proving popular with cyclists. The section ends at Swamp Road.
In 2005, a route continuing to follow the Minnamurra River towards Jamberoo was identified as the council's preferred option.
It would require land acquisition involving a five-metre strip from six properties which would cost the council about $62,300.
The route was supported by the cycleway committee, Kiama Tourism and cycling groups as it was flat, away from traffic and safer and more suitable for children, walkers and recreational riders.
However, the option was strongly opposed by the Jamberoo Valley Ratepayers and Residents Association, the Terragong Drainage Union and the landowners, with concerns raised about the loss of productive land, potential for theft and vandalism, impacts on dairying operations and safety of the path users in times of flood.
In 2010, the "preferred route" classification was removed as other options were investigated.
In October, Kiama's councillors chose a "southern option" which will instead see the path run alongside Swamp Road to Jamberoo Road.
The decision had a degree of urgency attached as there was a need to spend a $100,000 grant from Roads and Maritime Services before June 2014.
As the southern route was within the existing road reserve, works could commence almost immediately and completed within three months.
Emotions were high at the December council meeting where members of the cycleways committee expressed their disappointment with the council's decision and requested councillors to reconsider.
Cr Neil Reilly said it was an "unfortunate situation" where a passionate group of people in the cyclists and a passionate group of farmers could not find a common ground.
While his preference was for the path to follow the river, Cr Reilly accepted his fellow councillors had made a compromise decision to accommodate various views.
Cr Warren Steel said while it would be ideal for the path to follow the river, "it will go across other people's land and they don't seem to understand that".
"I don't feel I can go to the farmers and say I want part of your land thank you very much," Cr Steel said.
However he said the new path should go ahead.
"At the same time I think we need to continue with the path and the new section, although not as scenic, would still be well used," he said.