A network of more than 100 kilometres of mountain bike trails has been drafted for Orange City Council’s proposal to make Mount Canobolas a world-class centre to attract mountain biking enthusiasts.
The new map of bike trails has come after a firm of environmental consultants (The Environmental Factor) engaged by Orange City Council, spent months examining areas of the mountain which should be protected and avoided by the new trail network and associated infrastructure. The network of trails, created by track designers, Dirt Art, has been designed around ‘no-go’ areas, leaving wide buffers around areas of Aboriginal heritage and known sensitive ecological areas.
The consultants have now drafted a Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA) to lodge with state authorities. A Biodiversity Development Assessment Report (BDAR) is also underway to evaluate the ecological impacts arising from the proposal. Archaeological firm Apex Archaeology who have been working alongside members of the Orange Aboriginal community, are also completing the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment process for the proposal.
The PEIA is expected to be lodged in the coming weeks as part of the development application process to have the project considered by NSW Government authorities as a ‘State Significant Development’.
Orange Mayor Reg Kidd has welcomed the latest progress on the project.
“We started out in November last year with the aim of finding out if there was room on the mountain for bike trails. There is so much on Mt Canobolas that we want to protect,” Cr Kidd said. “There are plants that grow nowhere else in Australia and specialised flora and fauna. There are places that have special meaning and significance for the Indigenous community, including some archaeological sites that have only come to light as a result of investigations undertaken for the project.”
“I’m delighted with the draft concept. It demonstrates that not only can we protect what’s unique about the mountain, but we can also have a network of world-class bike trails that will attract riders from across Australia.”
While 68 per cent of the proposed trails are mapped in the State Conservation Area (SCA), their placement has been in areas identified as low risk in regard to potential environmental impact and extremely low risk in terms of cultural heritage impact.
“Remember too that some of these areas are heavily infested with weeds, so a go-ahead for the trails offers an opportunity to manage this infestation.” Cr Kidd said.
“As I’ve said before, the best way we can boost the National Parks budget to tackle the weeds and feral animals on the mountain is to boost the number of visitors going there every day. From the start, we set out to deliver a project that would have the farthest-reaching benefits with the smallest possible impacts.”
Orange City Council Sport and Recreation Committee chair Cr Jason Hamling was very impressed to see what’s emerged in the trail design.
“The environmental consultants have partnered with some of the best track designers in Australia and the quality of their work is outstanding,” Cr Jason Hamling said. “The designers were over the moon when they saw what the terrain of Mount Canobolas had to offer, and they’ve delivered a world class network that’s going to draw riders from everywhere.”
“The ‘no-go’ areas were mapped by the consultants with stakeholder input. Dirt Art has produced trails that will encourage the development of a shuttle-bus approach to take riders to their starting points. There are great opportunities here for local businesses.”
“The trails are designed to work with a wide range of riding styles and abilities, so the mountain will be a place where riders can visit again and again. I’m pleased that the higher impact tracks, which involve jumping are positioned in areas which are less environmentally sensitive, outside the SCA” he said
Mayor Reg Kidd said there will be further opportunities for the community to learn more about the proposals and to have their say.
“We held a large face-to-face gathering in the theatre where people, both for and against the proposal, could ask their questions. There’s been a steady stream of media releases at each
stage of the process. COVID-permitting we will be looking at other community opportunities so people can ask their questions as well as online engagement,” he said.