You are hereForums / NoBMoB News / Unauthorised trail construction can only end badly

Unauthorised trail construction can only end badly

Rob's picture

By Rob - Posted on 25 March 2011

Bantry Bay Fence

On my way to the office this morning some young kid tried to follow me through the Cityrail ticket gate. I stopped this person and a few insults were exchanged. The bottom line was they didn't get on that train and I would hope they might think next time before trying to skip a fare.

So you're thinking, "Meh... goodie, goodie - what has this got to do with mountain bike riding?"

It has to do with a sad but true fact of life - the majority of people want to do the right thing, but as the saying goes, "Evil prevails when good men do nothing". That is - if you know something illegal or illicit is going on but idly stand by and let it happen you are just as culpable as those performing these acts of 'evil'. A second side to the message is that those who are tempted to bend and break the rules are more likely to change their ways when confronted by their peers (ie. not a figure of authority).

Which brings me to this: it has come to my attention that in various locations in Sydney certain riders are making themselves busy with illegal trail construction on public land. Let me make this real easy for you to understand:

Illegal and unauthorised trail construction can only end one way: badly!

If you think for one second I'm wrong here read on for an explanation...

The picture above is taken from Bantry Bay - it doesn't look good does it?

For many years riders on the Northern Beaches enjoyed access to various trails in Garigal National Park (which contains Bantry Bay and Oxford Falls). Of course the authorities knew about this access but they turned a blind eye, in much the same way as a blind eye is being turned to those trails that are currently developing elsewhere. We mapped these sites and it is true, drew attention to the fact MTB was popular in these areas, but that isn't what caused the NPWS clamp down several years ago. I heard it directly from a National Parks director that the straw that broke the camel's back in this case was proliferation of trails and in the final case blatant use of a trail that was very badly constructed and completely unsustainable.

Basically: not content with riding what was there, certain elements of the community overstepped the line, took the piss, built completely irresponsible trails and ruined it for everyone.

You might argue that sooner or later the sheer volume of riders on trails that were there would have caused the clamp down, and perhaps that was a contributing factor, but the point is: without official access a shutdown was bound to happen sooner or later - although sadly I was unaware of this at the time.

If you cannot already see why this is all relevant to the building that is going on elsewhere in Sydney then let's spell it out:

Sooner or later, if you are building and riding illegal trails the land manager, probably prompted by local residents, is going to shut your trial network down. They are going to come in and remove your woodwork and rehabilitate the land you have cut trails on. They are going to build fencing, put up signs and send rangers to patrol the area to fine you.

If you think this won't happen look at Bantry Bay, and Oxford Falls, and that ridiculous trail in Terrey Hills that some people thought would go undetected.

After this has happened, you will be where the Northern Beaches was three years ago. Local riders will have the choice of running battles with land managers (which can never be won by either side - and just waste everyone's resources) or the alternative which would be to try and legalise some areas. The problem with the later now being that having caused a confrontation due to overstepping the mark as described above riders will be branded as environmental vandals and face a massive uphill battle. Trust me on this - after over three years of dealing with politicians and councillors and council staff and NPWS staff it most certainly is a tiring slog.

The point is this: if you truly want a long term solution to the provision of mountain bike trails in Sydney the only way is to get authorised legal access. It is better to campaign for that access up front (as is going on in Hornsby and recently Ku-ring-gai) than go wild thinking it can be sorted later.

To those building on public land without authority: know that your actions are not only damaging the prospect that you may one day get to legalise these trails, they are also damaging all other trail advocacy issues in the Sydney region and to some extent the whole state. You are handing the opponents of mountain bike riding ammunition in their otherwise very shaky case against riders, and although you are but a couple of miscreants, making thousands of law abiding riders look bad.

To those who know about this and turn a blind eye to their fellow rider's indiscretions: please, talk to your mates and put a stop to this. Talk to those you meet on the trail and explain how things are. Form an advocacy group and get this done properly. Please don't be the 'good men' that stand by and do nothing!

brakeburner's picture

This is definitely one of the best written arguments on here, so very well said, for the passion and more importantly the longevity of the sport. do the right thing!

unicycle6869's picture

Very good points. This is exactly the reason why I stopped two mountain bikers last week while the Manly Dam trail was closed and asked them to please not ride when it is closed. They were not happy with me but I hope they think twice next time. I'm sure if they got stopped every time they rode while it was closed, sooner or later they would get the point.

Rob's picture

Thanks guys for noticing this thread. For a while there I thought no-one gave a rat's arse about this. Remember:

No trails, no riding!

Another analogy I saw the other day when watching a documentary piece about extreme religious views: 99.9% of said religion are just normal people wanting to live their lives and don't care what other people outside their religion think. Then there were the 0.1% that spoil it for everyone - they want to foist their views on others and go out of their way to draw attention to this, disturbing the lives of those who don't share these views. Now... people outside this group who would otherwise leave the 99.9% alone feel threatened by the 0.1%. Rightly or wrongly this means the entire group are targeted by outsiders who, remember, would normally just leave things well alone.

Replace 'religion' with 'mountain bike riding'... get the idea?

All it takes is a handful of idiots to give those that would normally leave us alone a reason to campaign against riders of all forms Sad

Flynny's picture

Another classic example is in the Blue Mts. Old Bathurst rd was the DH area, famous amounst those in th eknow around the country and many a pro rider cut their teeth on it. Not only had council turned a blind eye to it for 20 or so years but they were actually taking steps to try and make it an officially approved area.

So what happened. A stupid trail was cut in at Nichol's Pde. This was immediately complained about and shut down and stayed so for a few years until it started to be used again. Not only was the trail poorly designed and unsustainable the pick up and drop off points were in quiet residential streets.

Residence got the shits, not only with the trail and had been closed down before but the shuttle vehicles tearing up and down the road with tunes blaring and riding talking shit.

Council tried to engage riders and warned them the Nichols pde site was likely to have negative impacts on their plans for Old Bat. Some riders choose to ignore that.

The up shot? While council tried to keep the two issues separate The Nichols Pde residents got political and ran a campaign that saw not only that track shut down but the ones at old Bat and any other on "the escarpment" too.

It's set the Blue Mts guys back 18 months at least at getting approved DH trails and it's only that they have a pro active council that approved trails are still on the drawing board. Too many other councils would have taken that first hiding and put MTB in the to hard basket.

All for the irresponsible actions from within our own ranks.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Best Mountain Bike