National parks cycling strategy on exhibition

Mountain biking in bush

A new draft cycling strategy put forward by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) with a view to establishing bike trails in some parks has been applauded by Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast, Adam Crouch, and has even been cautiously welcomed by Community Environment Chair, Gary Chestnut.

Crouch said the strategy is a “fantastic opportunity to continue to expand locations within our region”.

“With organisations like Central Coast Mountain Bike Club already successfully using areas of the Ourimbah State Forest, this review could identify additional areas of national parks across the Central Coast to be used by local mountain bike riders and visitors alike,” he said.

Environment Minister, Matt Kean, said with more and more people taking to two wheels and with investment in NPWS visitor infrastructure at record levels, the national parks network is set to become a must-do destination for riders of all ages.

“We are in the middle of a bike boom and there is now no better place to jump on two wheels than in our national parks; it’s a great way to experience and see our natural biodiversity first hand,” Kean said.

“But the key is to make sure it’s sustainable and sensitive to the environment, we don’t want to see damage to our precious biodiversity and cultural heritage.

“Cyclists love the great outdoors and we want to work with them to incorporate their ideas on how to ‘tread’ lightly and move forward with this strategy.”

The NPWS is asking for feedback on the new cycling strategy, which outlines how to balance the demand for a variety of cycling experiences with a responsibility to protect national parks’ natural and cultural values.

“Not all cycling activities will be appropriate in all national parks; unauthorised tracks in parks can be dangerous and this draft strategy looks at how to manage illegal tracks to prevent further ecological or cultural damage,” a NPWS spokesperson said.

Community Environment Network (CEN) Chair, Gary Chestnut, said while he was “originally alarmed” at the thought of bike trails within national parks, he was surprised to find the plan had positive aspects.

With 36 illegal bike trails having been discovered in Coastal Open Space System (COSS) lands on the Coast recently, Chestnut said CEN had concerns regarding risks to users and to Central Coast Council’s public liability, the loss of biodiversity and the threat to Aboriginal heritage created by unsanctioned trails.

The NPWS plan, he said, was a “rational document” which looks to identify where tracks are appropriate and where they are not.

“I recognise that Council and the NPWS have to work with the mountain bike community to justify and rationalise legitimate trails,” Gary Chestnut CEN

“It’s very important that they also liaise with the community at large to make sure any trails are located in very specific locations where the soil and terrain can cater for them while preserving flora and fauna.”

Chestnut said some of the positives in the plan included the possibility of combined trails, trails specifically for mountain bikes and adequate signage to warn bushwalkers.

He also welcomed a suggestion in the plan that banning bikes fitted with night lights should be considered.

“A lot of our flora and fauna are nocturnal and night riding needs to be addressed,” he said.

“We must remember that national parks were created primarily to protect our flora and fauna and were not meant for active recreational use but purpose-built trails and fire trails could be appropriate for mountain bike use.

“The plan could be a good thing provided the community has a say in what happens in their local national park and I encourage everyone to take a close look at it.”

NPWS is calling on cyclists, mountain biking associations and other interest groups to help shape the strategy and invites submissions before January 30, 2022.

Community consultation sessions will also be run with key stakeholders over the coming weeks.

To read the draft strategy and to make a submission go to

Terry Collins