Time to act on mountain bikers

JODY LANGE is a member of the Friends of Manning Park Ridge and Surrounds. Over the last decade mountain bikers have been trying to get a foothold on the park, and unfortunately some haven’t waited for the permission dangled by Cockburn council, and have hacked away at the native bush to create their own jumps and turns. With the council recently pushing its proposed sanction trail to the never-never, Ms Lange wasn’t surprised to find yet another example of environmental vandalism directly linked to mountain biking.

FOR the past two years a group of concerned Cockburn residents have been petitioning Cockburn council to acknowledge and educate a group of  non-passive users within Manning Park and surrounding reserves to the damage their aggressive activities are causing to the delicate ecology within the parks’ boundaries.

The latest evidence of damage was discovered last week inside Lot 9000, a strip of green sandwiched between the train line and Spearwood Avenue.

Since Spearwood Avenue’s inception this area is no longer officially recognised as part of the Manning Park Reserve.

There was some conjecture as to whose jurisdiction Lot 9000 falls under however the council has confirmed it is their responsibility. 

It’s unfortunate that ‘Lot 9000’ sounds more like an area on a developer’s desk than a recognised nature reserve. 

It’s a sizeable area of native bushland, home to towering tuarts [a protected species], timid blue wrens, nocturnal quendas and is a favoured roosting and feeding site for endangered black cockatoos. 

There is a bitumen pedestrian/bike track running from the roundabout at Spearwood Avenue and Hamiliton Road up to Cockburn Road that some locals use to gain access to the Coogee coastal development. 

This unfenced track and the pedestrian gates at the top of the Spearwood Avenue hill [leading from Manning Park, across Spearwood Avenue into Lot 9000] have allowed unfettered access to anyone wishing to take advantage of the bushland’s majesty and beauty. 

Unfortunately some with an over-developed sense of entitlement have turned the area into a mountain biking playground. 

The once-meandering walking tracks have made way for an unprecedented number of mountain biking trails, complete with jumps and downhill runs. 

These trails are littered with rubbish and materials necessary to facilitate speed and risk when riding bikes. 

Two 13-metre tuarts lay where they were recently felled so these activities could be carried out less encumbered. 

Council environmental representatives met with me onsite and identified the damage as being caused by bikers. 

I was led to believe that along with the removal of the equipment and debris, a statement [including images] condemning the activity would be released on social media, informing and dissuading those responsible from continuing. To date this has not happened; instead a less than effective article asking for the public to identify and report the perpetrators was added to the City’s website – it’s not our job! Oh and good luck finding it! 

At the same time the environmental department was informed, I emailed and invited numerous councillors to witness the damage first hand.  

Disappointingly only one councillor replied and was too busy, telling me that she had been aware of ongoing damage occurring in that area for a while and encouraging me to keep reporting as she was keeping a record.  

Curious that when I notified and spoke to the head of the environmental department and then met with the environmental coordinators they were oblivious of any damage or unsanctioned trails in this area.

From my experience when dealing with Cockburn council, in relation to the continual environmental vandalism being perpetrated within Cockburn reserves, it’s best to leave emotions at the door. 

It’s a hard ask when all the evidence points to recalcitrant neglect on their part, in not fulfilling their “value mission” of accountability, sustainability and safety. 

By refusing to acknowledge the particular group perpetrating the illegal activities council is cleverly avoiding any accountably for educating them on the correct park protocols. 

A fragile ecology such as the Manning Park Ridge and Lot 9000 is dependent on sustainable measures to keep it healthy and intact.  And all park users deserve to feel safe when using park amenities.  

The occasions I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a mountain biker in the park, they are of the belief that the council not only approves of them being there, they are encouraging of their activities. 

And after years of trying to get council to acknowledge and stop the mountain bikers from damaging the park further, it’s understandable why they think this way.

If a responsible approach to putting any more damage on hold while a decision on the future of mountain biking in Manning Park is made, would be to ask the mountain bikers to stop using the park and adjacent reserves for their sport, then why hasn’t this happened? 

Why refuse to educate the specific group who are proving time and again they need educating in the reasons why not to create trails, jumps and downhill runs, drag rubbish and building materials into the bush, dig holes and fell trees. 

It’d take the pressure off the community and go a long way to helping heal any divisions caused by ignoring the problem.

You can see for yourself just how ruthless the latest evidence of mountain biking desecration in our Park is by viewing the YouTube video ‘CoC – Environmental Vandalism’.

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