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.
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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