By Kath Gannaway
POWELLTOWN has been chosen as one of two pilot trail bike visitor areas aimed at easing the tension between bike riders and local residents.
Trail bike riders, community members and Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) staff met recently at Powelltown to review design plans for facilities at Powelltown and Noojee, which would cater for adult riders.
It is not legal for anyone under 18 to ride a trail bike in the bush.
The planned visitor areas would provide parking, unloading, toilet and picnic facilities for trail bike riders that are close to forest tracks suitable for trail riding and set away from local residents.
In a background statement the DSE says trail bike sales have been increasing by an average of 10 per cent a year for a number of years.
At the same time, more people are choosing to live close to state forest, more people are heading to the bush for recreation, and the community has higher expectations regarding environmental standards.
The result, it states, has been increasing recreational conflict in some heavily used areas, together with noise problems for residents.
Joy Harte, DSE’s trail bike project officer, who works on the pilot program in Powelltown, said the initiative was part of a much bigger picture.
She said the Powelltown location, at Turners Road, would particularly help address problems in Wesburn, where noise was an issue.
“The new unloading areas will help with this and also with people unloading bikes outside private properties. It will also give trail bike riders some ownership of facilities, which will include recommended areas where they can ride away from residential areas.”
The bigger picture, she said, included education, rehabilitation of the bush and compliance.
“Giving bike riders their own area away from residences is step one,” Ms Harte said.
“We will then be working on the education side to try to change the behaviour of some riders so they are riding more responsibly in the bush, especially in regard to the environment.”
Ms Harte said the next step would be to improve the compliance structure.
“We are working with local police and the Mt Evelyn Traffic Management Unit and will have police and rangers patrolling more regularly.”
But not everyone is happy. Gladysdale trail bike rider Bob Sanders has represented the Motor Cycle Racing Club of Victoria in the consultations.
And, although he concedes the project has merit, he has reservations, including that a growing number of riders will be forced onto a small number of tracks.
“There is a lot more work to be done,” he said.
“It will have to involve making more tracks, which they are saying they are hoping to do.
“You can dangle the carrot and ask riders to unload bikes but if there is nowhere to ride, why would they go there?”
Kelli Cunnington from Warburton has also been involved as a rider and a resident.
Like Mr Sanders, she believes the problems arise from a minority of riders who don’t respect other people’s rights, or the environment.
“A big part of the success of this program will be in getting rid of the people who are not licensed and not registered, who dump their rubbish and just don’t understand that if you are going to come and use the bush, you need to share it.”
Ms Harte said anyone with an interest in seeing what is proposed at Powelltown could see the draft design drawings and signage ideas on the DSE website at www.dse.vic.gov.au. But they should not delay.
The draft document is open for comment until 18 June.
By Kath Gannaway