MB trail group upsets friends

Cockburn council says informal trails tend to ruin the environment.

COCKBURN council has appointed a new working group to guide a controversial mountain bike trail at Manning Park, but it has opponents crying foul.

The council wants to formalise the park’s haphazard bike trails to prevent further damage to the bushland, but there’s been a strong pushback from nature-lovers and residents who want the area retained for passive recreation like walking.

The Friends of Manning Park Ridge was formed after the council’s first plan showed 15 kilometres of bike trails criss-crossing the ridge, and they packed the council’s last AGM to show their displeasure.

In response, the council agreed to appoint a working group with an independent facilitator to revisit the plan.

But FMPR co-founder Judy Fogarty says they’re unhappy with the membership and feel it has been set up to deliver a pre-determined result.

“It is disappointing and unacceptable that nominees with botanical expertise have been excluded from the outset, while others with tunnel vision for mountain bike riding or an eye on the, albeit dubious, business potential they think mountain bike trails present, have been accepted.”

A letter circulating amongst FMPR members also criticised the council’s choice of facilitator as a “motor-cross and mountain bike trail consultant” and claims the terms of reference were skewed. “The terms of reference constrain the working group conversation to ‘what type of mountain bike trails should be built and where’,” the letter says.

But City of Cockburn head of sustainability and environment Chris Beaton said consultant Dave Lanfear had 30 years’ experience across a range of industries. “Mr Lanfear’s background is primarily as a land use planner who specialises in stakeholder engagement. His reputation is for developing and implementing impartial processes,” Mr Beaton said.

The terms of reference also referred to a “potential trail network”, he said, adding there was no existing commitment to build trails or prioritise mountain bikes by either staff or the elected council.

“The group includes a representative from the Cockburn Community Wildlife Corridor and the Friends of Manning Park Ridge,” he said.

“Two members of the group are also members of the Beeliar Group – Professors for Environmental Responsibility, and one members also sits on the Beeliar Regional Advisory Committee.

Mr Beaton said there were 53 applicants for the group, and preference was given to locals – that excluded the FMPR’s botanists, though he added they would be able to supply information through the Friends.

He said the aim of the project was to try and reduce existing conflict at the park.

by STEVE GRANT

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