Mountain bike riders will be bumping down the Illawarra Escarpment in no time – legally that is.
The draft Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Strategy has been put on public exhibition after years of discussion and debate to formalise the sport.
The plan outlines a network of 82 kilometres of trails on Mount Keira, Mount Kembla and Balgownie, which will be delivered over three stages. Stage one will see 37 kilometres of trails created.
The draft concept provides a range of trails, including enduro, back country/wilderness trail riding, beginner-friendly trails and downhill riding segments to meet the growing demand for the sport.
Illegal mountain biking was rife on the escarpment and the draft plan aims to formalise existing trails in a sustainable way that is sensitive to the environmental and cultural heritage of the area. National Parks and Wildlife Service will close illegal mountain bike trails not identified in the final strategy.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward said Tuesday’s announcement was “huge for our region”.
“It’s not only a sensible step but it’s a major turning point in what will be a fantastic opportunity,” he said.
“I know how passionate people are about promoting mountain biking not only as a sport but as a key economic and tourism driver which fits beautifully with our natural environment.
“The strategy is being developed to provide approved trails for recreational, employment and tourism opportunities, while protecting the environment and the escarpment’s rich cultural heritage from illegal use and ad-hoc trail development.
“This strategy makes our trails safer.”
Mr Ward encouraged residents to read the strategy and make a submission. He said consultation with the diverse members of the Aboriginal community was key.
Keira MP Ryan Park said he was pleased to see the next phase of Mount Keira come to fruition.
“There is still a lot of work to do, but I strongly believe that constructing well managed and suitable mountain bike trails will not only enhance the recreational opportunities for locals and visitors to our area but it will assist in making sure that environmental damage is minimised by keeping bike riders on dedicated tracks across the mountain,” he said.
“I want to personally that Mark Sleigh and the team at Destination Wollongong and Wollongong City Council who have worked side by side with myself and the community for a long time to get us to this point.”
Mr Sleigh said the plan was a “game-changing result with enormous benefits for the local visitor economy”.
“Our genuine congratulations are extended to everyone involved in achieving a result most thought would never happen,” he said.
“We now look forward to broader community feedback.
“It’s important to acknowledge that mountain biking occurs every single day on the Illawarra escarpment – and will continue to happen every single day regardless of the outcomes of this process.
“It’s not an argument about whether we want mountain biking on the escarpment because we can’t control that; it’s whether we want to plan, control and optimise it.
“The bottom line is this: it’s just an opportunity at this stage, not a reality. We are calling on the community to show their strong support.”
Stage one will provide trails for all abilities on NPWS and council-owned land at Mount Keira and Mount Brisbane-Mount Kembla.
It will feature loop and point-to-point riding options, including a round-the-mountain ride and descending and climbing trails from Mount Keira summit to Geordies Flat and south to Mount Brisbane-Mount Kembla.
Riders will be kept separate from other visitors except for the shared use part of the western leg of the Mount Keira Ring Track.
Parking and access are dispersed throughout the network to provide a range of entry and exit points, to avoid concentrated use and maintain a sense of remoteness in a natural environment.
The trails will be on public land within the Wollongong area and development of future trails could be developed in the future.
- Will suit beginner and intermediate abilities
- Will include a beginner’s loop at the summit, a range of beginner-intermediate grade descending trails from the summit to Geordies Flat and a climbing route on the western flank of the mountain
- Extended rides south to Mount Kembla are also proposed.
- Primary access from Mount Keira summit, with other access nodes at Byarong Park, Geordies Flat, at the intersection of Mount Keira Road with Queen Elizabeth Drive and along Harry Graham Drive.
- Opportunities to extend the network to Keiraville are also identified.
Mount Kembla – Mount Brisbane
- Each offers good elevation and opportunities for extended rides, including a gradual descent to Mount Kembla village.
- Proposed trails form a long loop extending from Mount Brisbane south to Mount Kembla and a link north to Mount Keira.
- They provide a longer duration ride with a ‘backcountry’ feel.
- The loop includes a wide variety of trail types, with some stunning views east to Wollongong.
- Trails are suited to intermediate-advanced levels.
- Potential parking and access occurs at several locations along Harry Graham Drive. These include O’Briens Drift, the former Mount Kembla mine and Mount Kembla village.
- Proposed trails include a beginner-intermediate descending trail to Tarrawanna, an intermediate level loop above the former Corrimal mine and intermediate-advanced descents to Balgownie.
- A beginner-level climb will give access from the parking at Tarrawanna Oval to the start of the descending trails on the Lower Escarpment fire trail.
- Presently there aren’t viable links to Mount Keira, so Balgownie would be an isolated local network.
The Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Concept Plan developed by Dirt Art, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council contributed to the draft Illawarra Mountain Bike Strategy.
The consultation period closes on December 10. Submissions should be in writing and be as detailed and specific as possible, however, any comments are welcome.