THE Manning family has added their opposition to plans for a Mountain Bike trail crisscrossing the ridge above the park that bears their name.
On Saturday eight direct descendants of early European settlers Charles, Lucius and Florence Manning gathered with a small crowd at Azelia Ley Museum to air their concerns, while also having a dig a Cockburn council for neglecting the ruins of the family’s original homestead.
The statement, handed over to South Metropolitan MLC Stephen Pratt, was signed by 10 members of the family, who are also related by marriage to famed engineer CY O’Connor.
Liz Manning’s father was the last occupant of Davilak House before it burned down during a bushfire in the early 1960s, while her brother was the last person born there; the extensive ruins still lie in the South West corner of Manning Park.
“The purpose of this statement is to convey our grave concerns regarding the City of Cockburn’s proposal to construct a mountain bike trail of up to 21 kilometres within the Manning Park Reserve, Bush Forever, heritage precinct,” Ms Manning told the crowd, which included mayor Logan Howlett.
“Bush Forever plans are prepared with full cooperation between government and non-government agencies, and it is inexplicable to ignore the specific notation that the Spearwood dunes are the last intact natural limestone ridges in the metropolitan coastal area.
“The limestone ridges are covered with a great variety of natural vegetation, and it is this natural vegetation that protects the limestone ridges and the loose, unstable, sandy soil beneath.
“Once that’s gone you start to lose the integrity of the soil structure and of the ridge itself.”
Ms Manning said the council had done a “wonderful job” putting in stairs to the top of the ridge which had become a Mecca for fitness fanatics and attracted visitors to the park, but said the state heritage-listed ruins of Davilak House had been neglected and could be damaged further by the mountain bike proposal.
“These historic ruins are not even marked on the proposed mountain bike plan as having any importance and in many of the drawings are not even included,” she said.
“And I think that shows a mood of disregard and disrespect.
“One of the exits for the proposed bike track is immediately beside the historic ruins, and when you think about the constant use of biking activity and also of the parking at the entrance … it will actually seriously impact that historical ruin.”
Botanist Cate Tauss was coopted onto the Friends of Manning Park Ridge to do an environmental impact assessment of Cockburn council’s initial draft plan for the mountain bike trail, which it has since stepped back from after an initial outcry.
“Under pressure from the community, the City of Cockburn has taken this lofty plan down a peg, but it has created incredible expectations in the small mountain biking community who exploit this place and terrorise it by night by torchlight to build their illegal trails, which is against the clearing regulations for native vegetation.”
Ms Tauss said the park should have it’s own site-specific management plan as it was covered by an umbrella document over the broader Beeliar Regional Park.
“Because this is so different to the rest of the Beeliar Regional Park, then we would have some chance of rational, open, transparent management with the community working as a partner.
Ms Tuass said she was “appalled” when the council sent her a list of 14 plant species supposed to represent the park’s floral values, saying you could see more in the 10 metres around the bottom of the stairs.
“This really rattled my cage, and I set out to find out what the truth was, and I found out that it was one of the most important reserves in the whole of the metropolitan area.
Ms Tuass also raised concerns about development on the ocean side of the ridge which is included in Cockburn Coast development plans, but this earned an interjection from
Mr Howlett saying that aspect wasn’t going ahead.
“Mountain biking is shaping up to be the new bulldozer in so many precious bushland reserves in South West Western Australia,” Ms Tuass said.
The council appointed a community consultation group to revisit the trails, and its report is due in the next month or so.
by STEVE GRANT