The Hawkstowe Picnic Area will be upgraded and a mountain bike trail developed under a new master plan for Plenty Gorge Park.

The 1350-hectare park’s environmental, historical and cultural values will be protected under the 25-year plan, which will guide the future of the park.

Recreational opportunities for residents will be improved, with the 21-kilometre Plenty River trail to be completed as part of the master plan. The trail will provide visitors with walking and cycling paths linking the northern and southern ends of the park and provide safe access across Gorge Road. The trail will also connect with Mernda and Hawkstowe train stations.

Local groups will be called on to help develop a mountain bike trail in the park after a survey found mountain bike riding was the most popular sport in the park.

Releasing the master plan late last month, Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said it had been developed in consultation with traditional owners, visitors and residents.

She said it would strengthen access and connections throughout the park and that an $800,000 upgrade of the Hawkstowe Picnic Area would provide easy access to a family-friendly setting that would also be suitable for community events and other leisure activities.

The upgrade will include new park main entrances, as well as improved facilities and a playground.

The work will also help ensure the conservation of the Morang Wetlands.

“Melbourne’s north is one of Victoria’s fastest growing areas,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“It’s important that we have green open spaces like Plenty Gorge to escape and  unwind.

“These upgrades and the master plan will ensure residents and visitors can continue to enjoy Plenty Gorge in the years to come.”

The work will be completed over 25 years, with the completion of the Plenty River Trail and new entrance at Hawkstowe listed as short-term priorities.