A donation box containing money that helps volunteers maintain the Port Fairy to Warrnambool Rail Trail has been stolen.
Philip Du Guesclin, a member of the committee that takes care of the trail, said he was very disappointed someone had cut through a metal pole to take the metal box, estimated to have contained up to $500 in cash.
Police believe the theft from the beginning of the trail near Regent Street in Port Fairy took place sometime between Tuesday, January 3 and Saturday, January 7.
Mr Du Guesclin said the funds allowed volunteers, including committee members and up to 30 friends of the trail, to mow lawns, plant vegetation, remove litter and undertake other tasks to maintain the track.
The group holds multiple working bees each month in Koroit and Port Fairy to ensure the track, which is on Crown land, remains a popular spot for walkers and cyclists.
“Friends and volunteers come down and if we’re not planting trees, we’re trimming vegetation and weeding,” Mr Du Guesclin said.
Mr Du Guesclin said he was concerned the theft had breached the trust people had that money placed inside the donation bin would go to the right place.
“It means that for people who say thank you for the rail trail and put a bit in, their money’s just gone."
“It means that for people who say thank you for the rail trail and put a bit in, their money’s just gone,” Mr Du Guesclin said.
The volunteer said the group was unsure whether or not it would replace the donation box or look into other fundraising options.
“We’re wondering if it’s worth it, because if you replace it, it could happen again,” he said.
Mr Du Guesclin said the group had also been cleaning up graffiti at the site.
The rail trail runs for 37 kilometres and was officially opened in May 2012. The line was constructed late in the 19th century and closed to trains in 1977.
Port Fairy leading senior constable Glenn McDuff said the metal pole attached to the donation box had been cut with a tool such as a hacksaw or battery-operated metal grinder.
He urged anyone who saw anybody loitering around the end of the rail trail to contact Port Fairy police on 5568 1007 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.