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NPWS Decide that MTB trails are no longer needed in Northern Sydney.

Tristania's picture

By Tristania - Posted on 11 April 2015

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.

...or so it appears, according to the draft 2015 POM:

Which is quite inconsistent with their 2011 publication regarding MTB:

Update: Apparently the email address to send them to is, rather than the ones listed below (though why not send them to both...) - thanks Watty

The issue

The Parks and Wildlife Service has recently released their plans of management, and it appears that despite the fact that in their 2011 publication, they claim that "NPWS is committed to providing quality mountain biking experiences in selected parks and reserves," they are essentially saying that now that the Bantry Bay tracks have been constructed and opened, they now have no need to implement any more.

Specifically, after the Bantry Bay location (which was chosen as the top location despite being just across the road from the 10km Manly Dam track), the oval near Stringybark Ridge was considered as the second place for developments to go underway, but this does not appear to be the case, due to the fact that "The neighbouring Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby councils have constructed purpose-built mountain bike tracks offering varying degrees of experience in close proximity to BVNP."

This is rather ironic on two counts: Firstly, the imminent filling of the Hornsby Quarry (which was publicized here means that the "purpose-built mountain bike track" could well be no more in the coming few months (so if you haven't sent off emails to the council & Matt Kean, do so now!), and Jubes seems to have spent more time closed for repairs or in sub-par condition than it has been ridden.

Secondly, even if the two aforementioned tracks were open & functional for the foreseeable future, this does remove the need of a track in the region in NP land. The fact that thousands of riders come from far and wide to hit up OMV every Saturday and Sunday, and anyone who has been there in peak periods know that the track is chockers with hundreds of riders at a given time, clearly highlighting the great need for more than a 20 minute (or less) circuit.

What can you do?

Like with the OMV issue, we need to make some noise and publicize our dissatisfaction with the current plan. It seems that they're laying off the MTB issue to the side and hoping nobody will notice, so it is up to us to counter this.

We were recommended to contact Michele Cooper, Valleys Area Manager (, and Peter Hay, Metro North East Regional Manager ( and Narelle King (, Experience Development Coordinator. I have commented my email below as a guide to base it off.

If time permits, feel free to mention the Quarry Road Track, which is now signposted (in misleading terms) as being off limits in most hours of the day (see original discussion here) due to being the rifle range zone and the need for a safe, legal access track between Dural and Hornsby, the only way other than the busy and dangerous Galston Gorge.

Tristania's picture

"I am 21 years old, a full time electrical engineering student, working part time, an elite mountain bike racer and a volunteer with Sydney North Off Road Cyclists.

I am writing in reference to your recent draft POM that has been published as a draft copy on your website with regard in particular to the Sustainable Mountain Biking Strategy and how it is integrated to this POM.

Over the past decade, we have seen the level of recreational cycling skyrocket. This is well due to the fitness prospects that it increases, the enjoyment of connecting with nature, the social aspect of the activity and many other factors that space will not permit me to list.

Therefore, after reading the POM, I was disappointed to see what little extent NPWS appears to be following though on the SMBS. Although it is encouraging to see that "NPWS is committed to providing quality mountain biking experiences in selected parks and reserves," (NPWS, 2015, p22) it appears that their definition of "quality" is very different to my own, and that of many other cyclists. Although the Stringybark Ridge trail in Pennant Hills was listed as the second priority after the Bantry tracks, it appears that the prospects of it becoming a MTB facility has been dropped completely from the plan and claims that "The neighbouring Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby councils have constructed purpose-built mountain bike tracks offering varying degrees of experience in close proximity to BVNP."

This claim seems rather ironic because the Hornsby MTB trail is due to be removed (in part or in full) in September as Lend Lease takes control of the site for the Northconnex tunnel project. The 500m Golden Jubilee track has also been closed for a good portion of time since its building two years ago, so does little to reduce the necessity of a MTB facility at the aforementioned location

Even if both tracks remained fully open and functional for the forseeable future, this is not a reason to waive responsibility from NWPS to build additional tracks. The Hornsby track has become by far the most used track in Sydney with thousands of people coming from near and far, and its 20-minute long laps are far below what is required of the community and emphasize the need for more tracks in the area. Additionally, it is over 6km away from the Hornsby Track, which does not seem to me as being in "close proximity," compared to the Manly Dam trail, which is less than one kilometre from the Bantry Bay trail.

The SMBS claims that "NPWS will provide a few high quality single-track experiences." (NPWS, 2011, p5) Therefore it seems inconsistent to have only one facility north of Sydney, considering that there are Garigal, Berowra Valley and Ku-ring-gai NPs within the area, and a single 2km track hardly satisfies this need for thousands of riders.

Additionally, would like to encourage NWPS to recondsider the fate of the Quarry Road Track, which was partially closed off during shooting hours (most daylight hours), cutting off a cycling artery from rural Hornsby to the town centre, now forcing cyclists to traverse the busy and dangerous Galston Gorge. Although alternative routes have been sought out for walkers, the best I have found within this document several repeats of the claim that "visitor entry in the Range Danger Area is not recommended while shooting is in progress." Having bike access between Dural and Hornsby is vital, and would like to reinforce this

I sincerely hope that you can reconsider whether the 2015 POMs have sufficiently taken the needs of Mountain Biking into account rather than brushed them off to the side.

I look forward to further updates to this POM soon."

hawkeye's picture

Can you please point us to the pages in the Draft POM that are relevant to mountain biking. I'm much more time poor than I was and it's a big document to wade through.

hawkeye's picture

Unfortunately this fight will never stop. Constant vigilance is required.

For very win, there is a bureaucrat out there with a dislike for cyclists and mountain bikers who will - with the stroke of a pen - try with a sense of smug satisfaction to set back years worth of work.

A case in point: Darling Harbour. One section is now off-limits to cyclists because some sneaky self-appointed "Cycling Prevention Officer" in the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority unilaterally put into the documentation that the the developer must stop cyclists from traversing in front of their development. It wasn't picked up by SHFA or SCC and is too hard to unwind. It breaks the continuous cycle path that is meant to run from Circular Quay to Anzac Bridge.

For more info see "The Ugly"section here:

The statements Tristan quotes are directly in contradiction with NPWS cycling policy. We must not let the same thing happen here.

We must not let them win.

Please write a letter today.

BobaFett's picture

Here's my take on which areas to comment on.

Section 6.2.4.
1. The last POM actually had three areas for cycling to be investigated. Tunks Ridge, Stringybark and Bellamy St. It was there cause Hornsby Council has done a review into recreation saying that more cycling facilities are required. The irony is that since this POM, council has done more studies saying that mtbing is REALLY needed. Yet now the POM has dropped these locations altogether. Ask them to either put them back or justify why they dropped them.

Section 3.6 - Visitor Use.
Cycling pages 22 to 23. They should add something about monitoring demand and looking at providing single track experiences.
Page 25 - Cycling section. They say that the current fire trails are good for experienced cyclists. Point out to them that single track experiences like they talk of in their Sustainable Mountain Biking Strategy are not there and that there is a huge demand for this. They should add something to this effect.

Section 4 - Threats
Perhaps unofficial mtb trail construction should be seen as a threat?

4.4 Boundary Management
This talks about the rifle range safety zone.
We should ask them to look to relocate segments of the fire trail with single track located in a safe area outside the safety zone.

They should acknowledge that they need to continue to work with neighbouring councils in order to manage cycling demand and create opportunities to address demand.

Hope that helps.


BobaFett's picture

NPWS are happy that Hornsby has built something and that KuRingGai has buit 500m and NPWS have built Garigals two trails. NPWS are working on stuff for the Blue Mountains. NPWS have dropped any specific need for a trail in Berowra Valley National Park. This means one thing - they feel the demand is being met by the existing trails and therefore do not need (or anticipate the need) to consider any more trails in Northern Sydney over the next ten years. Many people have written to NPWS to ask them questions and the same answers keep coming back. The wording in the draft POM confirms it - there are no plans for mtbing beyond what's been done in Northern Sydney. Looks like all the work that we have done to cut back on unofficial trail building through self regulation has pretty much backfired on us. Thanks NPWS. I feel like such an idiot.

hawkeye's picture

Agreed. The self restraint has apparently failed.

I'll be mentioning that in my submission, that we feel used and that the result is likely to be a significant increase in construction of unofficial trails if the current attitude shown in the draft POM remains in place.

Simon's picture

Hi all,

Sent their Tourism Director this:

"Hi Sally

Narelle suggested I contact you to set up a meeting with you both.

I worked with Narelle and Carl a lot during the development of the 2011 Mountain Bike Strategy and Policy.

I'm very keen to catch up on a number of items.

It really seems as though in the last few years things have lost momentum in regards to cross tenure management of mountain biking. There still seems to be an impression we are a minority.

It also seems there is danger following the 2011 Mountain Biking Policy and Strategy and the creation of two short pilot study trails at Bantry Bay of deja vu.

The 1999 NPWS Cycling Policy which already permitted mountain biking in NP's resulted in a pilot study at Royal which 16 years later is only just being reviewed. The trial trails at Royal were too short to form a viable network and meet the existing demand and are well short of meeting todays numbers.

At Bantry Bay the trails while welcome are too short for a ride in their own right and are only useable thanks to the creation of new unofficial single track linking them together and to Manly Dam.

The new trails at Bantry Bay are also only a drop in the ocean compared to the existing unofficial network in northern Sydney. The unofficial network already caters for more riders than all the official trails and is mostly linked together extending from Narrabeen Lagoon to Hornsby.

Our data shows that 2/3 of riders use unofficial trails and that there are at least 9000 individual riders who together rode 11,000,000km in northern Sydney last year. We estimate our survey of 9000 riders included 50-70% of all riders. Note riders couldn't all physically fit on the official trails in northern Sydney.

We are currently preparing a brief economic and financial appraisal using NSW Government templates on these numbers to put together a business case.

I have tried hard for the last 8 years to assist government in managing riding, some of my Trail Care colleagues tried for the 10 years before this. However all we have seen are attempts to create a new network which is insignificant compared to the scale of the problem and the existing network. This strategy might have worked 20-30 years ago when other countries such as New Zealand got going on this. However I don't believe this is an option now in Sydney given how many riders we currently have.

A major frustration is also that the environmental issues with the existing network have not been resolved at all. Neither have aboriginal heritage issues other than a few at Bantry Bay. These were my prime motivations at the start of 2008 when I got into advocacy.

All my efforts which amount to $850,000 of free consulting to solve this problem drawing on my experience as a sustainability consultant have resulted a in failure to achieve my goals. All we have on the ground is more bush cut at Bantry Bay and then more bush cut unofficially to connect them.

I have documented by photo some of these issues in northern Sydney and have gone back every few years to show how much they have gotten worse. Riders have been volunteering to resolve these since 2008 if we can reopen the tracks.

The only viable solution seems to be for government to adopt cross tenure management of the existing network and over time make it more sustainable. This was the subject of my proposal in the recent Premiers Innovation Initiative. It was highly commended and forwarded to your department. We will use the business case we are currently preparing to strengthen this proposal.

I believe I have donated enough time and effort to this cause across multiple councils, state government departments and community green groups while government followed its own approach. Governments approach however as in Royal 15 years ago has not worked.

I think government, if it is serious about resolving this you need to work with riders to recognise and use what we already have.

Recent ministerial responses from NPWS have also had cut and paste phrases echoing the same failed attitudes and policy we thought we had progressed beyond a long time ago.

Draft PoM's are again showing apparent lack of comprehension of the issues, scale of riding and appear inconsistent with NPWS's 2011 documents. This was the case following the 1999 Cycling Policy which was ignored in previous PoM reviews.

I look forward to meeting with you both to discuss this further.

Dr Simon Kean

NBMTBR's picture

I take my hat off to all of you for your persistence. Does it feel to other people that we are talking through sound proof glass? Maybe we should swap pens for shovels and get it done! It feels like at the going rate we will all be carrying walking sticks by the time they start listening.

Lach's picture

"Thank you for your comments below, as you are aware the Plan of Management public exhibition allows for all to have a say about future management of this reserve.

I have forwarded your comments to the submissions mailbox. If you could please inform others this is the process for all submissions.

Regards and thanks for the comments."

Watty's picture

Thanks for the prompting Tristania.

I emailed some support through to Tristania's suggested addresses (Michele Cooper, Peter Hay and Narelle King), but had the following reply:

This is not the correct address to send submissions.

Please inform people if they want their comments included and recognised regarding the Berowra Valley Plan of Management they need to email

Otherwise your comments may be overlooked.

hawkeye's picture

Hope you y'all don't mind my using the nobob name. Apologies for the length of the letter, there was a bit of material to cover.


I’m writing in response to the Berowra Valley National Park Draft Plan of Management.

It is with concern that I note statements in the BVNP Draft POM appear to indicate a lack of interest in providing quality mountain biking experiences within the BVNP. The only commitment is to provide an investigation of the opportunity to provide trails, and mentions that there are trails in nearby locations. Old Man’s Valley is currently under threat from constructions works associated with the NorthConnex road project and may not survive. Jubilee is a small skills area and not a bike trail. This appears to show NPWS does not understand the scale of a riding network.

The document paints a clear picture of the view being held that the current trail network is adequate and little or nothing more needs to be done in Northern Sydney for the next ten years to provide quality singletrack trail experiences for mountain bikers. This view does not reflect the reality on the ground.

While management trails provide some welcome opportunities to train in a bush setting, they are far from adequate and are rated by most riders as dull and boring. What really draws mountain bikers to a locality is the opportunity to ride quality single track trails in a natural setting.
I thought this had been established beyond doubt with the publication of the 2011 Sustainable Mountain Biking Strategy and it is disappointing that I find myself needing to explain to NPWS again the same things about user experiences that were said earlier, and led to the SMBS.

Numbers to hand appear to show in northern Sydney there are at least 9,000 active mountain bikers who last year rode a collective 11,000,000 kilometres. Two thirds of this was ridden on unofficial trails.
Such a position being held by NPWS betrays the trust of what is probably Sydney region National Parks’ largest user stakeholder group by number that their needs would be catered for. Unauthorised trail construction activity has been temporarily reined in by the trust placed in organisations like TrailCare and senior members of the riding community such as myself and others that following the correct process will result in a viable formal trail network providing appropriate extent and length.

Instead, it appears that by us using our influence and peer pressure to strongly discourage unauthorized construction and avoid use of sensitive trails, the view has been taken by NPWS that the demand for new trails no longer exists.

Please forgive the intemperate language, but we feel like fools.

It is ironic that since the last BVNP POM, Hornsby Council has done studies which demonstrate that there is a massive pent-up demand for trails. Yet this draft POM has dropped altogether Tunks Ridge, Stringybark and Bellamy St as areas for investigation for bike trails. These locations either need to be put back in Section 3.6 or justification provided for why they have been dropped. If there are valid reasons why they cannot be reinstated, other locations must be identified and included.

Section 3.6 needs to contain something about monitoring demand and providing singletrack experiences.

Boundary management has also surfaced as an issue in relation to the rifle range safety zone. Segments of the fire trail need to be relocated around the outside of the safety zone or, if low impact is required, singletrack options to achieve the same outcome must be provided.

The Draft BVNP POM talks about the fire trails being good for experienced cyclists. This is disputed - while the gradients are challenging for fitness, it is not the only factor to be considered. The 2011 Sustainable Mountain Biking Strategy talks at length about the desirability of singletrack experiences, explaining why management trails are considered to be limited in amenity and attractiveness. Management trails are viewed by most riders as simply being connections that are used for climbing and linkages to official and unofficial singletrack.

I note there is no mention of providing singletrack experiences in the Draft BVNP POM. We have less than 4 kilometres of authorized singletrack in NPs in the Sydney region. With the rider numbers and kilometres ridden noted above, it would not be physically possible to fit all the riders on the existing authorized singletrack trails.

The view that demand has been met and there is no need for NPWS to do anything more is therefore absurd.

NPWS has not yet created a viable ride without adding in unofficial trail. Riders equate Bantry Bay to building holes 1 and 9 of a golf course with Manly Dam providing holes 3 and 4. To complete the full 18 holes and to connect between them requires use of the more extensive unofficial network.
Unless specific recommendations to include singletrack experiences consistent with the 2011 SMBS are included in the Draft POM, and acted upon within a prompt timeframe, it is likely that trust between NPWS and the mountain biking community will be irretrievably damaged.

We have been lobbying and waiting patiently for progress for many years. The 2011 SMBS was a big step forward, but essentially rehashed the 1999 policy, which already allowed for cycling in national parks on designated singletrack trails.

From the 1999 policy, a couple of short trails – insufficient to provide a usable network - were implemented in Royal National Park. Progress stalled until the opening of the two trails – again on a trial basis, and again unable to provide a complete network on their own - in Garigal NP this year.

Then, in this Draft POM, we are back to the old obsolete framework where mountain biking is limited to management trails. How is it that after 16 years, we are back where we started when the rest of the world, and much of our country, has moved so far forward?

The sense of déjà vu is overpowering. If this Draft POM stays as is, the conclusion will be difficult to avoid that NPWS has no meaningful interest in catering to the massive pent-up demand for sustainable singletrack trails in Sydney.

Frustration with broken trust then will overrule patience. Tired of waiting, and with a sense of anger over betrayed trust, unauthorized trail construction will again commence in earnest, and we will have no more influence to use to contain it because you will have burnt our credibility.

Some of these unauthorised trails will through ignorance inevitably go through quite environmentally sensitive areas. Others, through lack of awareness of sustainability practices, will be routed and built poorly, with significantly adverse downslope outcomes from erosion and soil movement.

Enforcement is unlikely to be effective due to the mismatch between size and depth of the pent up demand for singletrack trails and the limited capacity of NPWS to engage in enforcement action.

Further, experience has shown that NPWS has neither the funds nor the manpower to remediate existing unsustainable trails without the voluntary assistance of the mountain biking community. Since riding of trails on NP land in the Oxford Falls area has ceased, causing volunteer maintenance also to cease, erosion problems and environmental damage have both magnified many times due to failure to manage water flow, which has been photographically documented over several years by some of our associates.

These trails as are now almost past the point of recovery. The unintended consequential impacts of trail closure on downstream ecological communities has been significant.

These outcomes are highly undesirable, and were one of the key motivators for my getting involved in trail advocacy.

We would strongly prefer they were avoided and seek to work with you to modify the BVNP POM to ensure they are avoided. It is our view and we hold it to be true that the best opportunity to avoid them is to reduce the motivation to create unauthorized trails. This is best done by meaningfully engaging with the mountain bike community to provide quality authorized sustainable singletrack experience, in this case within BVNP. Enforcement, if required, then becomes more manageable because a credible alternative has been provided.

Omission of the provision of singletrack trails from the BVNP POM must be rectified to bring it into line with the 2011 SMBS and its whole-of-government approach.

Kind regards,

Northern Beaches Mountain Bikers

hank's picture

FYI - Email from council re St Ives POM - Looks like some of us should speak at the meeting.

St Ives Showground & Precinct Lands – Draft Plan of Management
I am writing to notify you that the St Ives Showground & Precinct Lands – Draft Pan of Management has been included as an Agenda item in the Business Paper for the Ordinary Meeting of Council to be held on Tuesday 26 May 2015 at Council Chambers, 818 Pacific Highway, Gordon, commencing at 7pm.

The Council report and attachments may be accessed on Council’s website

Once on the website page click on Agenda 26 May 2015 and then scroll down to GB.2 – St Ives Showground & Precinct Lands – Draft Pan of Management.

Hard copies of the business paper and report are also available at each of Council’s libraries and the Customer Service desk at the Council Chambers in Gordon.

Should you wish to address the Councillors at this meeting you are required to register in person at the Council Chambers on the night of the meeting between 6.15pm and 6.55pm.

If you have any questions or experience difficulty accessing the report on the website, please don’t hesitate to contact me on phone 9424 0792 or email

Roger Faulkner
Team Leader Open Space and Recreation Planning

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