Work has begun on a major environmental investigation of Mount Canobolas to see if a network of mountain bike tracks can be built that are sympathetic to the environment.
The investigation is the latest milestone in a long-running proposal by Orange City Council to make Orange a hub for mountain bike enthusiasts.
In October Orange City Council appointed Bathurst-based firm, The Environmental Factor, to complete an independent assessment and to work with expert track designers, Dirt Art, to see if tracks can be positioned to avoid sensitive areas. A team of experts, including environmental scientists, archaeologists and special track designers have started work with preliminary site visits.
Orange Mayor Cr Reg Kidd is pleased to see work begin.
“Throughout this process, the council has been clear that if the track proposal doesn’t measure up environmentally, it’s not going to happen,” Cr Reg Kidd said. “That means a thorough, arms-length investigation to see if and where tracks could be built.”
“Mount Canobolas is a natural treasure of our region and we want to look after it and bring people to enjoy it. In the past locals have wondered if the mountain hasn’t had the attention it deserves. National Parks staff do the best they can with the resources they’re given, but the reality is, the more people visit the mountain, the more funding will be allocated to tackle problems like weeds and feral animals and walking tracks improvements.
“The best way to look after the mountain is to make it more attractive and accessible for visitors.”
The first of a series of on-site familiarisation visits to the mountain precinct began on Friday (27 November) and continued over the weekend.
Ecologists and biodiversity experts will start the process of examining a range of factors including the mountain’s waterways threatened plant species and native fauna.
In December, it’s expected expert track designers will make their first familiarisation visit to the site, although detailed design, including the location and length of tracks will depend on the findings of environmental studies.
In the new year an archaeologist and expert in indigenous heritage will be working with the local indigenous community to examine the area’s indigenous history and historical heritage. The important process of consultation has already begun, with an invitation for participation issued to stakeholders by specialist consultancy Apex Archaeology.
Orange City Council Infrastructure Committee chair Cr Jeff Whitton says it will be important to tap into local community knowledge.
“It’s a real possibility that some of this original research will find out new facts about the mountain,” Cr Jeff Whitton said. “But they also want to learn from earlier studies and the experience of other local groups who’ve been visiting the mountain for many years.”
“They’ll be approaching local stakeholders including government departments and agencies to keep them in touch as they start work.”
DISCOVER THE STORIES BEHIND THE NEWS IN ‘The Orange Podcast’
Scroll to 9.09 in this episode to hear an interview with The Environmental Factor’s Emily Cotterill.
If any local groups want to get in touch to share their knowledge of the mountain, they should contact the Environmental Factor directly through their website.
“It’s also important to remember that this is an important step but there’s a lot of work to be done, and there’ll be space for community consultation during the process as we gradually get the results of this study.”
Orange City Council Sports and Recreation Committee chair Cr Jason Hamling believes mountain biking is potentially huge sport if a way can be found to design tracks that will work on Mount Canobolas.
“Orange already has many enthusiastic cyclists, and routinely hosts major road cycling events,” Cr Jason Hamling said. “But we’re only beginning to tap into the popularity of mountain biking and the specialist ‘downhill’ field.”
“The experience of the town of Derby in Tasmania shows how a country town can really benefit from discovering how to become a hub for mountain bikes. Do a google search for Derby and mountain bikes.
“The natural beauty of the Mt Canobolas must be looked after and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of this study to see if sustainable mountain bike tracks can be built.”