Get active: comment on the draft Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Strategy

Apologies but here comes another activist-type post. Of course, we'd all prefer to be enjoying and growing our wonderful local native plants than reading strategy documents, drafting submissions or going on protest marches. But sometimes nature needs our help, and this is one (more) of those times. 

New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Wollongong City Council (WCC) have released a draft Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Strategy (covering land within the Wollongong local government area). 

NPWS are accepting comments from the public on the draft Strategy until 10 December 2018. 

This is a really important document to comment on if you are concerned about the future of the Illawarra escarpment. While mountain bike riding has its place on the Illawarra escarpment, the draft Strategy proposes a huge length of trails (82km) in some of the most sensitive areas, particularly Mount Keira. And, as the Strategy itself notes (p.3), there are already high levels of disturbance to vegetation, soil and drainage from mining, roads and power lines (not to mention informal mountain bike trails). 

Please read the draft Strategy and send in some comments by the deadline. Some points you may wish to take into account include the following: 

- The draft Strategy proposes a very significant length of formal trails, at 82km, in some of the highest conservation value areas of the Illawarra escarpment within the Wollongong LGA. This is particularly an issue for the Mount Keira area, where proposed trails are extremely dense to the south of Parrish Avenue in Mount Pleasant. (This is also an area where there is good quality subtropical rainforest that will be vulnerable to further incursion of informal trails as a result.)
- The draft Strategy does not directly address environmental impacts of the proposed 82km of formal mountain bike trails. It proposes formalising informal trails as a way to reduce the environmental impact of the existing informal trails, but does not acknowledge or evaluate the environmental impact of formal trails relative to a base case where no trails are present. Nor does it demonstrate how formalising existing trails will slow the construction of new informal trails. Current NPSW ranger resourcing is inadequate to address current informal trail construction. 
- It states (p.3) that site selection for trails was based on factors including environmental sustainability and protection of native plants and animals but does not demonstrate how these factors were included. 
- It includes maps of proposed trails that are not sufficiently detailed to ascertain their exact location, or the impact of the trails on native vegetation. Maps do not indicate the type or quality of vegetation in the areas where trails are proposed, or the fauna that use that vegetation. 

Keep in mind that the walking trails around Mount Keira have been struggling for resourcing for maintenance for many years, and that weeds are running rampant in the area.

Please read the draft Strategy and send in a submission expressing your views. Comments can be emailed to npws.illawarrahighlands@environment.nsw.gov.au.

And just because every post needs at least one photo, here's a shot of rainforest on the Illawarra escarpment.  

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