News

Mountain bikes causing ‘huge damage’ to Illawarra escarpment

Illawarra Escarpment Alliance have launched a discussion paper on bike tracks on the escarpment.

AN illegal mountain bike track in the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area will be closed and rehabilitated from next week.

A number of illegal tracks are currently impacting bushland on the Illawarra escarpment, including at Bulli Pass.

Graham Bush from National Parks and Wildlife Service said the 250-metre unauthorised trail at Mt Keira is damaging an area that has significant cultural and environment values.

“The type of forest where the track is, provides habitat for a diverse range of native plants and animals, including the powerful owl and eastern pygmy possum,” Mr Bush said.

“Illegal tracks not only impact the conservation area but also pose safety issues for bike riders and others using the park.

“We will be working with the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council on the rehabilitation project due to the cultural significance of the Illawarra Escarpment and in particular Mount Keira.

“There are safe, sustainable and authorised tracks rights across the Illawarra region and National Parks and Wildlife Service continues to work with Wollongong City Council and the community to develop a 50-kilometre network of sustainable single use trails.

“The network of formal trails between Mount Brisbane and Mount Kembla will offer riders a safer, purpose-built experience that is sensitive to the ecological significance of the Escarpment,” Mr Bush said.

An environmental assessment is currently being prepared to assess potential cultural, environmental, geotechnical and social impacts of the proposed Mountain Biking Network.

Meanwhile the Illawarra Escarpment Alliance (EscA) has come out in support of the closure of illegal trails on the Illawarra escarpment.

EscA is calling for local mountain bike riders to heed widespread community concerns about the negative impact of illegal mountain bike riding and have launched a discussion paper on the most damaging illegal trails, including tracks off Bulli Pass.

One of the tracks on Bulli mountain

The Bulli trails are extensive, and are also in the process of being constructed or expanded. They are off the Throsby Track, where NPWS has previously advised against taking walking groups because of the erodible soils.

The tracks involve substantial concrete structures, and large amounts of materials and equipment. They are in an area where no formal mountain bike trails are being planned.

EscA acting convenor Emma Rooksby said the NPWS’ plans to close and remediate an illegal track at Mount Keira is a good step – but it’s only the first step.

“There has recently been an explosion in illegal mountain bike trail construction, and it’s doing huge damage to the Illawarra escarpment’s environmental and cultural heritage,” she said.

“We are hearing more and more concerns from across the community. We’d like to see mountain bike riders respect the escarpment and other community members, and stop the expansion of illegal trails.”

Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Paul Knight, a founding member of EscA, said the mountain biking community needs to support the formalisation of trails and not allow the continued development of new trails.

“We went into the process to develop a formal bike trail network in good faith, expecting the same from mountain bike riders,” he said.

“Unfortunately some of them have not respected the decision not to have any bike trails on Mount Keira.”

For more information on the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area visit the NPWS website.


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A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.

Discussion

5 thoughts on “Mountain bikes causing ‘huge damage’ to Illawarra escarpment

  1. I’d be very interested in some more balanced reporting of this “issue”!
    From what I see while walking around the escarpment are people enjoying an amazing natural resource,
    any other country/region would recognise this area as the perfect place to establish some proper mountain biking trails.
    Perhaps, instead of labeling these people as “illegal” perhaps some effort could be made to talk with these “illegals” and create some legitimate space for them to make the most of our shared resources.
    This is definitely not a kids only pursuit!

    Like

    Posted by David Alexander | November 9, 2021, 2:56 pm
  2. Is human-powered exercise in nature really the biggest problem? Do these people want people to be inside playing video games, unless they’re hiking in a pair of Merrells? If the trails are illegal, maybe there’s too much bureaucracy stopping people from getting trails sanctioned. A bit of trail erosion is sure a lot prettier than the Princes Motorway.

    Like

    Posted by Lewis | November 10, 2021, 9:57 am
  3. The tracks weren’t just built yesterday or last year i would like to know what impact it has done to the animals there is alot of wildlife out there. Go and get your own hobbies and stop trying to ruin ours.

    Like

    Posted by Blake | November 10, 2021, 2:45 pm
  4. Agree David the escarpment is really special and should be for all to enjoy. It’s not a matter of labelling these trails ‘illegal’. They haven’t been authorised by NPWS so are technically not legal. Absolutely bikers need to be in the legitimate space for working out the future but this requires good faith, listening and being prepared to compromise. As a sign of good faith we’d like to see new trail construction stopped.

    Like

    Posted by heleniwilson | November 10, 2021, 3:35 pm
  5. If concrete being used, agree this is an issue. Other than this I would have thought the out of control deer population is of more concern to natural wildlife and habitat. The article also mentions plenty of legal trails. Other than Cringila all tracks are illegal. They’ve been there for many years. Why the sudden interest in closing them down now? I don’t get it.

    Like

    Posted by Michael Kohler | November 11, 2021, 6:30 pm

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