Mountain Bike Feasibility Study
This project is currently open for consultation.

With participation in mountain bike (MTB) riding as both a sport and a recreational activity increasing, and demand for suitable areas to ride growing, it is important to plan ahead in a sustainable way. Mountain biking also has the potential to provide tourism opportunities and economic development.

While Council provides for MTB riding on designated fire and management trails in some of its natural reserves, a number of unauthorised trails have also been constructed. The construction of unauthorised MTB trails poses environmental, heritage and reputational risk to Council in terms of legislation, community expectations and the experience of other reserve users. Unauthorised MTB trails may also pose a risk to riders where construction is poor or where the level of difficulty is unknown to the rider.

There is currently no strategic framework for managing the rapidly increasing demand for mountain biking across the Central Coast. In light of this, we’re undertaking a Mountain Bike Feasibility Study, to gather some of the information required to inform a strategic framework.

By identifying the role that Council’s natural reserves may play in the provision of mountain biking experiences across the Central Coast, Council will be better able to protect areas of high conservation and heritage value, minimise the key drivers for the building of unauthorised trail construction and maximise the safe use of Council reserves by all visitors.
 

What you have told us so far

Between 5 June to 2 July 2019 we carried out initial public consultation to inform the feasibility study. We received 1949 survey responses and 25 targeted stakeholders attended at two face-to-face focus groups. We encouraged everyone to respond to the survey, including all community members and visitors, MTB riders, environmentalists and nature reserve users. A detailed review of the feedback we received is presented in the engagement report. This consultation helped us to understand community views, demand, utilisation, opportunities and risks for mountain biking on the Central Coast.

We recognise there are different views within the community on how to respond to the demand for mountain biking on the Central Coast, and there are also some are areas of agreement.

  • 95% of survey respondents support (agree or strongly agree) continuing to allow MTBing where currently allowed (on some existing fire trails as shared use)
  • 87% of survey respondents are concerned about lack of authorised trails for MTBing
  • 75% of survey respondents are concerned about lack of clarity regarding which trails are authorised
  • 52% of survey respondents are concerned about construction of unauthorised MTB trails

Discussion paper

The Mountain Bike Feasibility Study Discussion Paper and Engagement Report present the findings of the feasibility study initiated by Central Coast Council in 2019. The Discussion Paper was informed by what the community and stakeholders told us during the first round of consultation.

Before making a submission on the Discussion Paper, we strongly recommend:

This will ensure your feedback is relevant for this stage of the consultation process.

Got a question?

  • Register your interest to discuss the discussion paper with project officers in a virtual meeting
  • Submit a question and we'll respond to it on this page (scroll down to see what has already been submitted).

Have your say

We want to capture the community’s feedback on the Discussion Paper and identify if there is any consensus on the options or recommendations before making any further recommendations to Council. You can provide feedback:

Submissions will be accepted between 22 February 2021 and 22 March 2021.

When providing feedback to Council your attention is drawn to the provisions of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 which allows for possible access to certain public and personal documentation. View our privacy statement.

Timeline

5
Public exhibition of discussion paper
×
Who's listening
Name
Sharyn Styman, Environmental Officer

Frequently asked questions

What is a feasibility study?

A feasibility study is an assessment of whether a project is viable or not. Specifically for this project, it is to understand the feasibility of providing MTB trails and riding opportunities within the Central Coast region that are safe for users of the natural reserve and MTB riders – all while protecting areas of high conservation and heritage value and minimising the key drivers for the building of unauthorised trail construction.

Why is Council undertaking a feasibility study for mountain biking?

MTB riding is a growing sport. Participation in the activity as nature-based recreation is increasing and demand for suitable areas to ride is also growing.  Many riders are looking for forest trails and natural areas to ride through in the same way residents seek bushwalking opportunities.

While Council provides for MTB riding on fire and management trail systems in its natural reserves, a number of unauthorised trails have also been constructed in some reserves. The construction of unauthorised MTB trails poses environmental and reputational risk to Council in terms of legislation, community expectations and the experience of other reserve users.  Unauthorised MTB trails may also pose a risk to riders where construction is poor or where the level of difficulty is unknown to the rider.

With rising demand for this recreation activity it is important to plan ahead for provision in a sustainable way that not only protects sensitive areas, but also provides new opportunities for the community and enhances nature-based tourism in the region. Many councils are planning and providing MTB trails to meet community needs and, in some cases to expand the tourism appeal of their region. MTB-based tourism can bring a new market, one that is focused on nature-based recreation and that values protection of the natural environment.

MTB riders involve a broad section of the community including many families, young people and adults, and as such, there are a number of MTB riding opportunities sought including: descent trails, cross country riding and skills. The majority of demand is recreational, but there are also club-based competitions and skill development that require specific tracks.

What is the aim of the feasibility study?

The aims of the Mountain Biking Feasibility Study are to assist in planning for recreation in Council’s natural reserves by:

  • Identifying the role that Council’s natural reserves may play in the provision of mountain biking experiences across the Central Coast
  • Protecting areas of high conservation and heritage value
  • Minimising the key drivers for the building of unauthorised trails
  • Maximising the safe use of Council reserves by all visitors

Please note that this project relates to MTB riding and does not include trail bikes, motorbikes etc.

What is a discussion paper?

This Discussion Paper presents the findings of Mountain Bike Feasibility Study and is intended to support an informed conversation with the community on topics including:

  1. Key concerns and issues toward mountain biking 
  2. Selecting suitable sites 
  3. Options for managing demand for mountain biking on the Central Coast 

The Discussion Paper and the community’s feedback will inform Council’s future planning for recreation in Council’s natural reserves.

What are the next steps in the feasibility study?

A report will go to Council in mid 2021 presenting the outcomes of the community consultation on the Discussion Paper, including a Consultation Report. The Discussion Paper, Engagement Report and Consultation Report will inform the final recommendations made in the report to Council in relation to the provision for and management of mountain biking trails in Council’s natural reserves.

Community questions

This is a huge expenditure of council funds, employing Otium "Otium Planning Group provides consultancy services in planning, facility development, management and funding for the sport, recreation and leisure industries"(from their website, NOTE 'industries'and a group called World Trails whose business is building trails! Seems a rather biased choice to write a discussion paper...why was there no COSS or environment protection business included in the development of the discussion paper?

[Date received 23.2.21]
 

The feasibility study gathered information on the supply and demand for mountain biking on the Central Coast and explored the opportunities and risks for managing the demand. This information has not been previously collated. Council sought the services of consultants who had expertise in community engagement and recreation planning, in particular those with experience relevant to mountain biking.

Section 5.11 of the discussion paper provides a brief overview of the impact of mountain biking on the environment based on published literature. Chapter 9 presents the site selection criteria and in this chapter it is noted that for any sites considered suitable for mountain biking, detailed assessment is required to determine if a trail network could be established given constraints around environmental and cultural heritage considerations. If Council resolves to undertake further planning into potential sites for investigation, there are environmental and heritage data sets available to undertake a constraints analysis.
 

I have read the discussion paper and can’t pin point how many mountain bike riders there actually are? neither resident here nor potential users. How did an apparently "unknown” number of people get such a huge enquiry underway? How many requests does council need to pursue an issue in such depth? 

[Date received 23.2.21]
 

The number of mountain bike riders that live on the Central Coast, or that may visit the Central Coast, has not been estimated by the Study. Indicators that could be used would be the use of Council reserves and National Parks for mountain biking, club membership, or bike sales.

There were three drivers that led Council to complete a Mountain Bike Feasibility Study:

  1. The increasing community concern about the environmental and heritage damage of unauthorised trails.

    The construction of unauthorised mountain bike trails is a significant management issue for Council. Despite ongoing investment of time and resources to manage the issue, the construction of trails and the associated impacts have continued to increase. Council staff identified that additional information was needed to inform future planning and land management decisions, such as an understanding of the drivers for the construction of unauthorised trails and case studies.
     
  2. Requests to explore the tourism and associated economic development opportunities that mountain biking could provide across the Central Coast 

    These requests arose during the delivery of two Council endorsed plans:

    - Initially the Central Coast Destination Management Plan 2018-2021 action 2.2 Develop a business case for new mountain bike trails to attract a world class event to the Central Coast with the partners being Council and NPWS and timing 2018/19 

    - Followed on by the Central Coast Tourism Opportunity Plan 2019-2024 that included investment opportunities for Open Space ‘Soft Adventure Cluster (Simulated Wave Park / National Surf Reserve / Mountain Biking trails upgrade’.
     
  3. Requests from the local community to address the undersupply of authorised trails

    There was a high response rate to the survey in 2019 and strong demand expressed by the community for locally accessible and regional level trail networks. The findings are presented in the Engagement Report.

    There is currently no strategic framework for the planning and management of mountain biking on the Central Coast. The Mountain Bike Feasibility Study is the first step in gathering information to inform future decision making.  

Wildlife ecologist should be asked to study and disclose the impacts of (1) fast-moving bikes, (2) trail density (miles of trails - including unauthorised trails per acre) disturbance caused to nesting birds, ground-dwelling animals, foraging wildlife, and overall impacts to the well-being of all wildlife (small and large). 

[Date received 28.2.21]

Trails can be designed to avoid particular fauna habitat or to reduce the speed that a mountain bike travels through an area. For example, bikes will travel faster along a trail that runs directly down slope compared to a trail that meanders across the slope with frequent corners. As such a trail could be designed to reduce the risk of collision with wildlife. The environmental assessment completed at the concept and detailed design stages would address such considerations.

A study into the impacts of trail density (including unauthorised trails per acre) on native fauna behaviour and population viability would be best undertaken in partnership with a research institution. Council will consider this suggestion.
 

Given there are so many unauthorized trails -- as long as you allow bike usage in this area, how will you stop the rogue/unauthorized trail building from continuing?

[Date received 28.2.21]

The feasibility study concluded that there are insufficient authorised trails to meet the demand for mountain biking on the Central Coast. The combination of unmet demand and a desire for locally accessible trails has meant that a number of unauthorised trails have been built.

The community engagement findings indicated that there is substantial support for collaboration on future provision with user groups able to develop and maintain trails. 

If new trails in suitable locations are developed to cater to the demand, then increased enforcement can be pursued for any unauthorised trails developed. Also, if trail closure is undertaken in partnership with local mountain bike clubs and users, the reasons for closure can be understood and there may be more support for the remediation work. There is also the potential for self-policing by rider groups, if a majority of riders are engaged and support the approach.
 

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