A group of Glenbrook residents are pushing to have the disused Lapstone Hill railway tunnel opened up to become a tourist and cycling destination, connecting the Lower Mountains to Penrith.
At the April Blue Mountains Council meeting Mayor Mark Greenhill pushed for a state government partnership to remediate the site on the Great Western Highway, which is also known as the Glenbrook Tunnel. The disused tunnel is steeped in history. It was used as a secret site for mustard gas storage in World War II and in recent years housed a mushroom farm that one local MP called a "doss house".
Council wants the Minister for Water, Property and Housing, Melinda Pavey, to pay for the clean up of the site.
The Minister, currently busy sorting out a water crisis in numerous NSW towns, told the Gazette she has now agreed to meet with council to discuss the matter.
Her spokeswoman said she would make a public statement after the meeting, which is expected to happen mid year.
Cr Greenhill said the tunnel "is a significant historic structure ... with great potential for adaptive re-use. In particular, re-activation for public use that supports the amenity, economy and liveability of the Lower Mountains".
The site requires "contamination and stabilization issues being resolved by the current owner, the NSW government ... addressing these issues is necessary before the site can be considered for activation ... as part of the Eastern Scenic Escarpment Master Plan."
Campaigner Adam Podolski said the tunnel was the "missing link between Emu Plains, Lapstone and Glenbrook".
"There is so much potential," he said.
"The Glenbrook Tunnel has an amazing history from railways, famous artwork, secret RAAF munitions storage, mushroom growing and is also an heritage-listed structure.
"The tunnel can provide safe access for walkers and cyclists, plus a healthy commute option from Penrith to the Blue Mountains and beyond. It would be a fantastic community project [and] great to see people from all walks provide input; from Landcare groups, historians, rail enthusiasts, bushwalkers, cyclists, art lovers and children who will one day be able to take their children through."
The group has an active Facebook page with 800 followers (www.facebook.com/glenbrooktunnel).
Ward 4 Councillor Brendan Christie is working with the mayor and community groups to push for the opening.
"Opening Lapstone Hill Tunnel would connect Glenbrook and Lapstone villages with Leonay and Emu Plains, as well as Penrith's Great River Walk."
"We may also be able to boost tourism and our local economy by providing a unique location for visitors looking for adventure-style activities," Cr Christie said.
The 660 metre long steep brick railway tunnel was constructed in 1891 and shut in 1913. It was the site of a mushroom farm and the centre of controversy in recent years, when Mountains state MP Trish Doyle campaigned to raise concerns about health and safety of workers. That business has since closed down.
MP Trish Doyle said she was pleased to see council's plan and a new "positive chapter" in the history of the tunnel.
"With my constituent, David Watson, I uncovered shocking evidence in 2015 of environmental degradation and slave labour practices at the mushroom tunnel that could not be allowed to continue. We worked with local, state and federal agencies to have the illegal activities shut down and the site remediated. Everyone is looking forward to being able to enjoy this heritage asset."
The Department of Primary Industries (Crown Lands) evicted the farm operators and said at the time they were working on a rehabilitation plan.