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From SNORC: The filling of Hornsby Quarry and what it means for the Hornsby MTB Trail


Tristania's picture

By Tristania - Posted on 24 March 2015

An update from a previous post here, Think it's best to spread the word as much as possible.

Hornsby Mountain Bike Trails - the final stand

"Hi XXXXX,

The future of Hornsby Mtb trails lies in the hands of Council and Matt Kean who will be trying to negotiate with Northconnex to save them.

Much media has recently reported the partial filling of the Quarry costing $22 million. We have been asked a lot of questions about what this means for mountain biking, does this money actual stabilise the quarry, why are we paying this money for soil to be dumped? Here is what we know and what you can do to help.

Summary of this Newsletter

- In 2007 Hornsby Council identified the provision of a mountain biking facility as the number one priority to address unstructured recreation inequities in the shire (Unstructured Recreation Strategy and following Council meetings). After a shire wide study, trail experts proposed a 25km network between Westleigh to Hornsby Quarry. The proposal was too much too soon (referred to as "politically sensitive") and so to start with Council scaled the project back and built a part solution in a few hectares of heavily modified land next to the old quarry where a 6km trail was built with none of the recommended supporting facilities (water, toilets, shade, skills park, pocket park).

- Despite it being only a partial solution of what it may eventually be, Hornsby Mtb Trails exceeded all expectations and are now the most heavily used mtb trail in our region. The site's been cleaned up and maintained by cyclists (over 2000 hours) and it is used by tens of thousands of riders from toddlers through to the retirees, from beginners to experts. There is a special convivial atmosphere on weekends where the normal communication barriers of life are gone and cyclists are connected as friends regardless of age or expertise. It brings hundreds of thousands of dollars of income to the local community. Vital to its success is its accessibility to beginners, the gradual skill progression is provide and its proximity to public transport.

- Stability issues with the Quarry next to the trails has prevented Council developing it. An opportunity to half fill it has come up using fill from the Northconnex tunnel project. Matt Kean is leading the charge on this first stage (costing $22 million). The next million cubic metres will be handled by Council and we are not aware of the cost and whether its funded. This paves the way for future development on the quarry lands.

- The filling of the Quarry, and future development, will mean the loss of all beginner trails (green and light blue) as well as Lava Flow. Truck movements during the filling process, and car movements on the final developed parklands and sporting ovals will prevent people riding the remaining trails as safe crossings are required over the fire trails and conveyor.

GOOD NEWS

Council have said that they are going to try their best to relocate the trails and retain the remaining as a functional loop by building crossings over the fire trails. Council acknowledge the value and importance of having the mtb trails and the fact that it fulfils a need that they identified. There is an opportunity to relocate ALL the beginner trails into bushland thus giving kids a wonderful experience of the native environment rather than that of a sun baked field of weeds and piles of dirt.

BAD NEWS

There is no guarantee that Northconnex and State Government will support the crossings over the fire trails. Council will need lots of support to secure these crossings. Also, as the relocation of the beginner trails will require putting trails into native bushland, there will be lots of resistance from certain groups who do not believe any mtb trails should go into any bushland (even though we have been limited to a few hectares out of the 6000 or so in our shire and NPWS have now produced guidelines to do it in a well managed sustainable way).

- We are at a cross roads. If Council see mtbing as important enough then they will relocate the trails and if State Government and Northconnex see it as an important enough issue then they will support Council in making the crossings and the cost in relocating the trails, then mtbing will continue to thrive and bring benefits to the local community.

Unfortunately there is a real chance that Council will not be able to get the crossings and will not be prepared to relocate both the green and light blue trails. Legal options for mountain biking will cease in our area and all that work and good will will be lost. Unless we write now and urge them to make a huge effort to retain the trails, then there is a real chance that the trails will cease to exist, people will move on to other things over the next decade, beginners will cease to be able to take up the sport and we will go back to the negative situation we had years ago where illegal trail building proliferated in an uncontrolled manner.

We need to write to Council and Matt Kean to tell them how we need them to make every effort to retain the trails. Also, soon an Environmental Impact Statement for Northconnex to fill Hornsby Quarry will be available for comment. We should take opportunity to make comment on this and we will keep you posted for when this comes out. The critical decisions will be made in the next couple of months.

Read on for details and contacts for who to write to.

Background

In 2007 Hornsby Council identified via an Unstructured Recreation Survey that mountain biking was the number one recreation needing facilities. Although Council manages over 6000 hectares of bushland, a small site of several hectares was identified as the only real viable option. This is where the trails are now located in part of the Hornsby Quarry lands.

The Hornsby Quarry lands had remained essentially unused due to stability issues for decades (although suitable for trail building, they were not okay for construction). This disused and largely forgotten site became a place of illegal dumping and anti-social behaviour. But in 2010 things started to change when the mtb community cleaned the place up and trails started to be built by Hornsby Council with support from the State Government funding and the cycling community (SNORC). Now it is a vibrant facility allowing tens of thousands of cyclists from toddlers to the retirees to experience the bushland and the joy of mountain biking. The intermediate trials are experiencing 1000 -1500 laps per week and the beginner trails 1500 - 3000 per week and hundreds of thousands of dollars are coming into the broader community. In an environment where the lack of facilities / space is a real challenge to providing recreational opportunities for a growing urban centre, the mtb trails have provided a solution that rivals an indoor sports centre or aquatic centre for about 1% of the cost - pretty impressive by any standards.

But the remaining Quarry lands remain unused due to stability issues that have restricted major development.

What's happening?

Plans to stabilise the Quarry now involve two stages. The first involves filling the Quarry hole with one million cubic metres of landfill from the Northconnex tunnel project (this has been much publicised by Matt Kean recently as part of his re-election campaign). Stage 2 involves another million cubic metres from soil around the quarry and this work is being done by Hornsby Council. Once stage 2 is finished, Council hope to build a parkland, recreational trails (walking and cycling), a sporting oval / village green and hopefully complementary outdoor adventure activities.

When and how much?

If things go to plan then the contractor Lend Lease will take control of the site in September 2015 and complete stage 1 in late 2018. Lend Lease are being paid $22 million (from Council, State and Federal Government) to use this fill option. Stage two will be done by Council and will take 2 - 3 years and Council hope to have the parkland finished by 2021. The cost of stage 2 is unknown.

What happens to the Mtb Trails?

The "staging" area for the filling process will take place where the Green, Light Blue and possibly Lava Flow areas are. The first two will certainly be lost. The long term plan (which has existed for many years) is to build a park where the green loop is and an oval where the Light Blue and Lava Flow descending and climbing trails are, so these will not be coming back and therefore always needed to be relocated.

Council has said that they are wanting to make every effort to relocate these lost trails into other areas of the Quarry Lands. There are good areas where this can occur and we believe all the green and light blue trails could be relocate. What's more, rather than the kids having to ride around an exposed, weedy field, they will get the opportunity to have a sustainability managed experience of our native bushland. This is a really important factor in connecting our children to the environment and winning their hearts and minds to value our natural resource.

Five years ago our Council wouldn't have placed trails into native bushland. This was because there was a lot of resistance from certain local conservationist groups and the impact and demographic of mountain bikers (back then we were labelled as vandals, drug dealers and a bad demographic!). Today Council has the benefit of hindsight and experience. We also now have examples of the approach by NPWS in building sustainable and well build trails in National Parks, Bantry Bay, Blue Mountains, Glenrock, the Snowy Mountains, QLD with the Atherton Tablelands and TAS with hundred of kms. All take a sensitive approach to placing trails in native bushland. So our Council doesn't have to go first in doing this. The pros of the final outcome of relocating the trails into the bushland outweigh the cons (lock it up, keep kids in degraded areas or out of the bush altogether, illegal building occurs etc).

The Northconnex contractor also does not want cyclists crossing the fire trails. Therefore, we need tunnels or bridges built in order to retain the outer loop of blue and black trails. Council are working hard to achieve this.

The trail head is also going to need to be relocated. Fortunately Council are redeveloping the Hornsby Park area north of the pool. This could contain a fantastic trail head. There is even space for seating, shade, water, a skills park and pump track.

What's the future for our trails?

Well, there is an optimistic view of "what's supposed to happen" and then there is the pessimistic view of "what's likely to happen".

What's "Supposed" to Happen.

Council relocate the green trails, the light blue trails, and an additional blue trail with black options into the quarry lands thus retaining (or even improving on) the existing network. A good gradual skill progression is maintained. Kids and beginners now experience the bushland rather than degraded lands. Council use the guidelines developed by NSW NPWS to build sustainable trails in bushland areas.

Council include a skills park, pump track and amenities in a new trail head North of Hornsby Pool.

Council and Matt Kean/State Government successfully negotiate with Northconnex contractor to construct the trail crossings.

We move into the future retaining the trails that we've fought for and spent over 2000 hours maintaining and improving the bushland quality of the area. Hornsby continues to address the need of off road cycling and grows as the most popular mtb trail in the region, enabling tens of thousands of people to recreate and brining hundreds of thousands of dollars to the surrounding shops.

What's likely to happen

(oh how I wish I will be proven wrong)

Council will find it too challenging to relocate the trails (cost and resistance from the environmental groups overwhelms Council and forces a compromise). As a result they will build a short beginner trail as a token effort. Therefore the beginners will be forgotten about and the "progression" we need for a successful network will be lost even if we do get the crossings.

The Hornsby Park redevelopment will adopt more traditional park features and will not include a skills park or pump track as part of the mtb trail head.

Council will get outmanoeuvred by the Northconnex contractor. State Government don't make enough noise to backup Council as part of the process and we lose the crossings.

We are left with a non-functioning trail network that quickly dies as a destination to ride.

Legal mtbing in the area will cease and we will go back to how it was before we worked with Council to change the culture and cut back on illegal trail building. Less people will take up mtbing due to OMV no longer being there. It is likely that unofficial trail building will proliferate and the collaborative relationship the community has developed with Council will be lost. The glue that has held the cycling community together will be gone.

There is a possibility that trails will be built again and be functioning in 7-10 years time. But this isn't funded and there are many unknowns. Will they just be built on degraded areas or will they be genuine mtb trails that deliver an experience of the bushland? Staff will change, Councillors will change, many of us will move on, trails will be built elsewhere, Council's current position as being a leader in providing mtb trails will be lost and possibly never regained, there are no certainties.

What we have now is actually pretty great and greatest of all is the way it has changes so many people's lives for the better - all the kids who can thrash around OMV without their parents needing to drive them, all the middle aged people who have finally discovered a form of exercise they actually love, all we've learned building the trails and caring for them, the chance to race, run festivals... Lose the trails, and especially the beginner trails, and you really diminish a lot of people's lives. Sorry, I get emotional about this stuff......

What can you do to help

You can do three things.
Write to your local state MP Matt Kean, make a submission to the Northconnex EIS when it comes out for comment and finally write to Hornsby Councillors.

Matt Kean

The number one issue is helping Council secure the crossings. Please write a short note to Matt Kean and tell him that an important part of spending $22 million on filling the quarry is to secure these crossings so that the mountain bike trail can continue to exist. No crossings, then RIP Hornsby Mtb Trails for the foreseeable future.

hornsby@parliament.nsw.gov.au

Hornsby Councillors

Remember that Council want to help and plan to help! So we are not changing their minds, we are just encouraging them to hold fast and stay strong so they do not compromise when the easy and compromised options are presented to them as solutions. Ask them not to accept a token effort as being acceptable because if we don't get the crossings in and the trails relocated so that progression is maintained and the beginners are looked after, then RIP Hornsby Mtb Trails. We need the crossings, we need a proper trailhead built in Hornsby Park with a skills park and pump track and we need ALL the beginner trails relocated.

Also thank them for what we have and remind them of how amazing it is and how it could also be so much more amazing with further work.

Steve Russell (Mayor), Mick Gallagher, Nathan Tilbury, Antony Anisse, Nick Berman, Robert Brown, Gurdeep Singh, Michael Hutchence, Jerome Cox, Bernadette Azizi

srussell@hornsby.nsw.gov.au
mgallagher@hornsby.nsw.gov.au
ntilbury@hornsby.nsw.gov.au
aanisse@hornsby.nsw.gov.au
nberman@hornsby.nsw.gov.au
rbrowne@hornsby.nsw.gov.au
gsingh@hornsby.nsw.gov.au
mhutchence@hornsby.nsw.gov.au
jcox@hornsby.nsw.gov.au
bazizi@hornsby.nsw.gov.au

Thoughts on what to write

- It is the busiest trail in the region. It has usage numbers that Tasmania and the Snowy Mountains who are spending millions on 100's of km of trail would dream of having. Thousands of laps per week.
- It is a regional attraction bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the local community.
- its enabling toddlers through to the elderly to recreate
- its getting kids off the screens
- its helping address obesity
- Mtbing was recognised as the number one recreation being held back by lack of facilities and Council committed to providing for it. It is fulfilling this commitment.
- Council manages around 6000 hectares of bushland (excluding NPWS) and after a shire wide investigation mtbing was restricted to a few hectares next to the Quarry. So we don't have any other options and we need to do our best to retain it as there are no other sites.
- the site was a degraded wasteland and the cycling community cleaned it up and have spent over 2000 hours cleaning and caring for the trails. What we have now it beautiful and is proof that conservation is about feet on the ground caring for the land, not forgetting about it as we had for decades.
- The potential relocation of the beginner (green and light blue) trails is a great opportunity. This is because these trails are currently a bit of an after thought as they are short and they are in open degraded fields. The kids are currently getting an experience of riding around a field of weeds and piles of dirt. If these are relocated into the bushland then suddenly this younger generation are going to start experiencing the beauty of the bushland. They will then form the next generation of environmental protectors.
- International standards being adopted by NPWS to build trails in a sustainable manner, NPWS building trails in bushland throughout Australia, Tasmania building 100's of km through bushland etc. So perhaps we could do it in the few hectares allocated to us?

Thanks for taking the time to consider this issue.

If you want any more details, please feel free to email us.

Regards,

Campbell King
President - Sydney North Off Road Cyclists

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