What is proposed?
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has exhibited three documents that will determine the future of cycling in NSW’ national parks and reserves: the draft Cycling Policy; draft Cycling Strategy; and draft Implementation Guidelines. These three documents describe the types of cycling experiences that will be provided in parks; define how roads, tracks and trails are selected as suitable for cycling; set design standards for dedicated cycling facilities; and propose measures to ensure that any environmental impacts are detected and remediated.
Caring about nature begins with personal connections, the experiences that bind us to the natural world and transform us into advocates for the protection of precious ecosystems, species and landscapes. Cycling, like driving or bushwalking, offers a wonderful way of experiencing many protected areas across NSW. It offers the chance to explore thousands of kilometres of management trails throughout the reserve network. Further opportunities for exploration are provided by ‘single track’ and downhill circuits, specifically constructed by NPWS for use by mountain bike.
Cycling in protected areas also poses serious risks to nature. The illegal construction of mountain bike tracks, jumps and structures is causing severe environmental damage to national parks and reserves. That damage is the result of the clearance of native vegetation and habitats, the disturbance and loss of natural soils and disruption of waterways. The unapproved construction of tracks has been growing over recent decades, and most especially over the last couple of years. Each illegal track or series of jumps might ‘only’ affect a few hundred square metres of natural habitat, but the cumulative effect, especially in urban edge parks such as Royal or Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, is the loss of thousands of hectares of national park.
Although there is much to commend about the exhibited plans they have some disturbing omissions that must be rectified. The foremost is the apparent unwillingness to confront the intensity and scale of environmental damage involved in the illegal construction of tracks, jumps and obstacles.
We all want to see environmentally sustainable cycling flourishing in NSW’s amazing parks, but it must be done in a way that protects our natural and cultural heritage from the selfish actions of a few. This requires a credible plan backed by well-resourced operational programs. The plans must establish the education, monitoring and enforcement programs to stop the environmental degradation of our most precious parks, along with the resources to repair the damage that has already been done.
How can I have a say?
The draft Cycling Policy, draft Cycling Strategy and draft Implementation Guidelines are on public exhibition until 30 January 2022. Submissions can be by letter, email or via online survey. See https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/parks-reserves-and-protected-areas/park-management/community-engagement/cycling-strategy-and-cycling-policy
If you want to ensure that cycling is promoted as a way to experience nature and that your parks and reserves are protected from environmental damage please consider making a personal submission on the exhibited plans. We recommend the following points:
What I support about the draft plans
- The promotion of cycling as an environmentally sustainable way of experiencing our national parks and reserves.
- The use of existing management trails by cyclists.
- Carefully designed cycling tracks in locations where they can be constructed and maintained with negligible environmental impact.
- Education about low impact cycling practices.
- Signage to identify tracks that are approved for use by cyclists.
What I don’t support
- Ignoring the serious environmental damage being inflicted on the reserve network by the construction and use of illegal tracks, jumps and structures.
- The construction of mountain bike track networks in parks or locations with erodible soils, sensitive habitats (including threatened species or threatened ecological community habitats) or little history of cycling use.
- Any suggestion that building mountain bike tracks, jumps or structures without formal approval from NPWS is acceptable.
- Any suggestion that NPWS would approve the use of illegally constructed tracks, jumps or structures in anything but the most exceptional circumstances.
What I want added to the plans
- ‘Upfront’ acknowledgement that major damage has been inflicted on our parks and reserves by clearing native vegetation and disturbing natural soils during the construction and use of illegal mountain bike tracks and structures.
- An unequivocal statement that the use of an illegally constructed mountain bike track is itself an offence.
- Commitment to a comprehensive audit of existing tracks and trails in parks.
- Commitment to establish effective monitoring to detect a new construction of illegal tracks or structures.
- Active law enforcement programs to catch and prosecute anyone clearing vegetation, excavating soils or otherwise damaging parks- whatever their reason.
- A commitment to allocated sufficient funds to fully remediate and restore areas damaged by illegal tracks and structures.