Healesville Freeway Reserve

By 15 March 2024No Comments

Healesville Freeway Reserve: will we get a great result?

Elaine Hopper

If you live in Forest Hill, Vermont, or Vermont South, you may be surprised to know that you reside near the Healesville Freeway Reserve (HFR). It lies concealed behind houses, a hidden gem, yet to be developed as a public park after successful campaigning by the community.  The 3.5 km strip of land runs east-west between Springvale Road, Forest Hill, and Boronia Road, Vermont. It is no longer required for a freeway (originally planned to go to Healesville, hence the name).

In 2018 the authority, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), consulted extensively with the community before publishing a visionary Concept Plan for the Reserve. Key items were:

  • a linear shared path throughout the park, potentially connecting the existing array of trails west of Springvale Road to the Dandenong Creek Trail in the east,
  • an off-leash dog walking and sporting area near Davy Lane, and
  • preservation of the Bellbird Dell conservation area and remaining areas of virgin bushland.

DELWP concluded that there is enormous potential for the proposed linear path to be extended eastwards over Dandenong Creek to join the Dandenong Creek Trail and the Eastlink Trail. That extension can connect to over 100km of safe trails to places such as Jells Park, Dandenong, Patterson Lakes, Carrum, Bayswater, Ferntree Gully, Croydon, and Mooroolbark.

It is time for this hidden gem to reveal its charms to more people. An estimated 15,000 more people could enjoy the HFR Park annually, if designed to link by a low bridge to the existing Dandenong Trail, and sign-posted there to show people the way and the attractions. These numbers are based on data from VicRoads automatic traffic counters on trails.

The west end of the HFR, exiting beside the Forest Hill Police Station, is close to the Hawthorn Road bicycle lanes, Mitcham to Syndal Pipe Track and Gardiners Creek Trail. Healesville Freeway Reserve Shared Path is listed as a Strategic Cycling Corridor, class C2 because it has such vital links to both east and west.

At the centre of HFR is the beautiful Bellbird Dell valley. This is a treasured local place with indigenous vegetation and wildlife. There is a proposal that a high bridge supported from beyond Bellbird Dell could carry the shared path over the Dell. A bridge in the treetops would attract the interest of visitors and become a focal point for the park.  It could be our own Otway Fly in the suburbs. People on such a shared path would bypass Bellbird Dell and allow the Dell to retain its feeling of oasis.

The $10.5 million proceeds from the sale of residential properties are being held in trust to fund the construction of the shared path. This sum is estimated to be more than sufficient to extend the path to the Dandenong Creek trail, construct a treetop bridge high over Bellbird Dell, and to seal the path to create a durable and safe surface.

Parks Victoria’s project plan for the Healesville Freeway Reserve is to be announced in October 2022. The current intention of Parks Victoria is to limit the extent of the shared path to within the boundaries of HFR. This will exclude the construction of a bridge over Dandenong Creek and extension of the trail to the Dandenong Creek Trail, as was recommended in the Concept Plan.

That well-researched Concept Plan set a high bar for the development of Healesville Freeway Reserve. Delivery of the Concept Plan in full will present the community with an enduring space for walking, cycling, recreation and enjoyment of nature.

For more information about the ideas suggested here contact Elaine Hopper at

Petition: Extend Healesville Fwy Reserve Path to Dandenong Creek Trail

In the October 2022 edition of Eastsider News, Elaine Hopper wrote about the Healesville Freeway Reserve.  She has established a petition on calling on the State Government to extend the proposed shared path beyond the park boundaries to connect to other trails.  She invites readers to sign the petition here.