A public forum was held last night at the Sutherland United Services Club. The meeting had a really good turnout with in excess of 100 people attending. The crowd was definitely tilted the way of the mountain bikers with only around 10 non/anti-mountain bikers in attendance.
The meeting was facilitated by Anthony Burton a consultant and environmental scientist. Narelle King (Experience Development Coordinator) for NPWS gave an overview of the discussion paper. She highlighted that visitation in National Parks is dropping and that NPWS see mountain bikers as an increasingly popular activity, which has the potential to increase visitation.
The attendees on both sides of the fence were very distinctive slices. The mountain bikers were nearly all in the 30-40ish age category and predominantly male. They seemed to represent the XC crowd with only a few admitting to be downhillers. The non-mountain biking attendees were older in age.
The discussion was supposed to focus on high level state wide issues, but as expected the discussion actually centred on local issues to do with access to the Royal National Park. The focus of NPWS appears to be to reduce/eliminate illegal trails within National Parks. They have correctly identified what the XC riders are looking for in terms of experience, which is some single track that caters for all levels (i.e. multiple lines for technical obstacles) and connecting tracks that can be used to form larger loops. They have decided to exclude completely downhill riders on the basis that they are not sustainable tracks and require too much infrastructure (i.e. car shuttle roads etc). It was highlighted by a few that unless downhill riders are catered for close to the riders home , not necessarily in the national park, then illegal track construction will remain to be a problem. I think most mountain bikers agree (even non-downhillers) that there needs to be a legal downhill track somewhere between the southern end of the RNP and Wollongong.
A disappointing comment was made by Mike Trainer (Area Manager for Royal National Park and Heathcote National Park), stating that there would be no new track in the Royal National Park. I am not 100% certain what he meant by this and I hope it does not mean that they will not reallocate some walking track to mountain bike use.
There was a general consensus that a well designed and constructed track is sustainable. It was highlighted that the single track near Loftus is now in better condition than when the trial began. Thanks must go to the volunteers who work on these trails the third Saturday of each month. If you are interested in volunteering please contact Ranger Grant Miller at the Royal National Park.
There is no timeline for the plan at the moment and it seems that it may be a while off. At the moment it is still a discussion paper and before anything can happen the individual Plans of Management need to be modified for each of the National Parks. The Royal National Park and Heathcote National Park Plan of Management is currently being reviewed, if you want to become a stakeholder and stay up to date contact Mike Trainer to be included on the list.
NPWS have however set some priorities for certain areas around Sydney:
1. Northern Sydney - New Experiences
2. Blue Mountains - New Experiences
3. Kosciosku - New Experiences
4. Upgrades to Royal National Park
5. Upgrades to Glenrock
If you want to have your say, you need to get in quick the forum will close on the 18th October. Comments can be made here.