You are hereNPWS Meeting Apr 9, 2008

NPWS Meeting Apr 9, 2008


Rob's picture

By Rob - Posted on 09 April 2008

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.

This afternoon Justin and I met with a two representatives of NPWS (Ranger Kim McClymont and Area Manager Chris Grudnoff) at their office in Forestville.

I am very pleased to report this was seen by all parties as a very productive encounter, with everyone keen to hear others point of view and coming away with some constructive actions that will hopefully help all involved, and of course the mountain bike community as a whole.

The short version: Things have come to a head at Oxford Falls (Garigal National Park) as a result of large rider numbers, illegal trail use and erosion becoming too much of an issue in the NPWS organisation. If riders can please show restraint and respect the 'no go' areas recently signposted here then future legal trail building may well be approved.

The long version - meeting minutes of what transpired today:

Chris introduced the issues that NPWS face in the Oxford Falls area of Garigal National Park. Large numbers of riders congregating at the Morgan Road area have brought too much attention to themselves and the riding of mountain bikes to be ignored. The Director of NPWS witnessed the large numbers personally and seems to have added much weight to the issue.

Chris went on to explain how legally the local NPWS officers are tied by the directions set out in the POM (Plan of Management) which states riding is not permitted on single track trails. There are some discretionary policies for each park, but single track trail access for mountain biking is not included in these. The only parks in NSW with MTB single track trail access are The Oaks and Thredbo, and each of these areas needed government approval to allow this.

Chris also explained the many different types of park area that NPWS manage. Many areas such as Nature Reserves are completely off limit to mountain bike riders. In most other parks however, riding on fire trail is always allowed.

Abusive trail users, particularly motor cross riders were discussed. The Rangers agreed that such users, particularly unregistered riders are a danger to themselves, others and the trails they ride on. As well as trying to protect parks from illegal mountain bike use the Rangers are especially vigilant of motor cross bikes. All National Park users are to be encouraged to report activity of this kind to the Bobbin Head office which is manned seven days a week.

The conversation moved on to what objectives NPWS had for this meeting. Over the course of the meeting various points came up, but can be summarised basically as wanting to establish a means of communicating with the local mountain bike community, especially the mapping of illegal trails. To enable this the following was decided:

  • A section on the NoBMoB site for ranger communication would be very useful. We floated the idea of "News from the Rangers" but later came up with the more jovial title, "Ranger Danger!" for their section. Robin and Justin agreed this was a good thing and would create such a section.
  • It is pointless for content authors to remove certain trails from NoBMoB maps as everyone knows they are there. Rather it would be better to point out where the boundaries of legality lie and hope that individuals could respect the law.
  • Kim agreed to email Robin and Justin from time to time with any issues or other information to appear on the 'Ranger Danger!' section.

The Rangers explained how Garigal National Park POM (Plan of Management) is due for review. The time frame of such reviews seems to be elastic but it appears that it should most likely be in progress in the next couple of years. If riders want to be heard and win concessions they must become organised and make many submissions. As a guide the horse lobby provided some 1500 individual submissions on another POM. Volume equals action.

When mentioning State Forests (in particular the work done by Huw Kingston in Wingello State Forest) the Rangers conceded that nothing on this scale was likely to appear in National Parks, due to the underlying differences between State Forests (commercial) and NPWS (there to protect habitat as well as provide some recreation areas).

There are rock carvings at various locations in Garigal National Park that must be protected. Recently some of these have been purposefully damaged at Bantry Bay. All parties find it ridiculous that riders would do this given these particular carvings are no-where near the trails everyone knows about. The issue of pointing out carvings to protect them, versus the attention this would draw from the violent minority is a tricky one. No one had a good solution.

The example of Royal National Park (RNP) was brought up. Apparently RNP had a full time office for 12 months looking after trail maintenance and building in order to bring about the changes that have recently been seen there.

It was mentioned that much work was done on a Northern Beaches Trail Network but progress on this seems to have stagnated, possibly due to the loss of key personnel.

The Oxford Falls area of Garigal National Park is where Rangers would like to focus efforts. They do understand that a solution to the problem of erosion and illegal trail access will not be found by simply closing the trails there. The Rangers agreed that if trails in this area are closed for good then riders will have no option but to seek out other local areas and therefore the problem will simply move. However, due to the limitations of the POM trails on National Park lands must remain closed.

Again it was discussed that it's imperative that when the Garigal POM is reviewed as many mountain bike riders as possible submit requests for access. If riders are viewed in a favourable light then it is more likely such requests will be heard at review, and that access to the trails now illegal would possibly be opened. Once the constraints of the POM are lifted there is no reason why the community cannot be involved in fixing erosion and other trail problems and these trails have a chance to re-open. It was agreed that this is somewhat of a carrot to dangle at riders in order to prevent them from riding illegally.

As part of the recent access activity Council asked NPWS to place signage to the entrance of the Moon Rocks section of trail.

Given that POM legislation prevents trail building on National Parks lands it was noted that much of the land to the South of Garigal National Park in this area is Council controlled. Given that NPWS have already helped Council in this area an idea was floated, whereby perhaps NPWS could work with the mountain bike community and local Council to allow creation of trails on this land. If such trails were available it was agreed this would go a long way to discourage riding illegal Garigal National Parks trails. As Council land is no doubt marked for later development it was hoped that Council would view such activity as acceptable. Any trails built thus could become a stop-gap measure for use, mountain bike riders should be hopeful that once the Garigal POM is reviewed trails there that have been illegal for years will be reclassified as legal.

It was noted that any if trail building or maintenance on Council lands was approved it would be an excellent way to hone the skills required. Any such activity, even resulting in just short trails would serve this purpose well. A couple of candidate locations were discussed but as this idea is pending discussion with council it may well not see fruition and interested parties should not get their hopes up.

The meeting concluded after an hour and half of constructive and friendly conversation.

Matt's picture

Glad to hear all was constructive and communication will continue.

It would be good to get a regular update from the Rangers on the Ranger Danger page, let's not let it turn into Stranger Danger Eye-wink

In particular it would be good to keep a track of which POM's are up for review and when so we push all our lazy arses into making submissions, if I have time I'll build that into the NSWMTB info, more on which when it goes live...

Thanks Rob & Justin,
Matt.

Andy Bloot's picture

Rob and Justin, you're legends. You're holding the torch (!) for all of us.
It may be a good idea to post this on Farkin as there has been a bit of discussion on the topic (the new signs) there as well. A lot of riders would be keen to support this as we are, and be kept up to date with developments. And when the time comes, the more individual submissions, the better off we'll all be.
If I haven't seen it there in a couple of days, I will post it if that's OK with you all (I won't take the credit)

Justin's picture

If you are a member over at farkin, it could be worth posting there. Please do not copy/paste the above, rather post a link to this page.

Caro's picture

For all the time and effort you two and all the other people out there who are so actively involved!!
Great to read the meeting was so positive.

Rob's picture

Mr Bloot has kindly posted it here:

http://forums.farkin.net/showthread.php?t=122713

Little-Ditty's picture

Thanks Rob and Justin. Very generous to donate your time on behalf of us all. Eye-wink

I will be particularly interested to see how the idea of riders doing approved trail maintenance (either supervised or not) will fly with NPWS. That would be a great outcome for the single tracks at Red Hill and Oxford Falls if it ever did get approved.

dez_b's picture

You pointed out the horse lobby had 1500 members which equates to a large lobby group which obviously has helped their cause ,
how many members does NOBMOB have active now ?
And how best can we represent our side of the table and also become a significant voice that the NPWS
wont be able to ignore ?
It comes back to an earlier post I contributed too " LOBBY FOR YOUR HOBBY " http://nobmob.com/node/4646

Rob you seem to have taken on the mantle which is highly commendable but would a draft letter that we could download and sign help ?
After reading in a US bike mag recently this reduction of trail access to MTB riders is not just our problem they also have had many trails closed to the public so why should one group "us" be denied use of land where other groups be it on foot or hoof be allowed ?
Thankyou for taking action for all of us , now you need to help us help you to again in turn help all of us if that makes sense.

Matt's picture

Was the number of submissions... there are likely many many times that number of involved horsey individuals, NobMob will have lots of members but "active" is another matter entirely, depending on your definition of active you might count them on your own digits...

IMHO a random letter spray won't do much but irritate, and what would you propose saying and to who?

Looking at the 1500 again I would imagine each submission was quite different and they were addressing was a specific POM, that's why they had such an impact.

We could easily do the same thing as long as we have trigger points as to when a POM is open for debate, and I think we'll be able to do something on that front soon. This is also why it's imperative that we now have communication lines open and importantly that they remain so, by us all being nice and friendly Eye-wink.

Ta,
Matt.

Whisperer's picture

Well done Rob and Justin,
I 'discovered' the signs at oxford falls last sunday, and I have to admit it was a rude shock and wake up call.
Glad you guys have been so proactive, and reported so objectively on the meeting.
There are a bunch of people having similar access issues in the epping/ryde trail network north of the M2.
Not sure who is involved, but seem to remember Gary Bortz may have done some good advocate work.

On the idea of form letters, I suggest we put up some boilerplate copy, with a number of different themes that people can use for the basis of their submissions. There are many angles to support trail access. I've put down a few ideas, and sure there are plenty more:

Youth activities - keepng kids off the streets and out of urban areas
Health and fitness for the community - discussing the benefits of healthy lifestyles
Appreciation of the bush areas - by people not inclined to bushwalk
Bringing people in to the national parks - NPWS may be concerned by the volume of people using the trails, but these people can also be an asset assisting with maintenance of the trails, and appreciate the environment (as per previous point).
MTB clubs - explain the community spirit that is alive among a diverse multicultural cross section of society, that may not otherwise exist

I'll certainly be adding my support to the cause!

Whisperer

Justin's picture

Versus the number of mountain bikers... those horsie folks must have got their aunts,uncles and cousins to write letters! Just kidding Christine!

All good questions Matt.

The way submissions for the draft PoM work is that the specific arguments posted by people are tallied, and that is reported. e.g. 160 people said that they don't like riding when there is a thunderstorm, cos it's scary. 100 people said they should be able to ride off tall cliffs.

Therefore, I think that one of the things we need to discuss, is what do we want as a mountain biking community. Remembering we need to co-exist with walkers, riders, climbers... then we can come up with a template for MTBers and you can use the arguments there or add / delete / modify as your personal opinions dictate.

The PoM will be up for review over the next couple of years. We can do stuff in the meantime, e.g. trail works. I am most excited by the potential for some trail building, however as Robin said keep the legs crossed.

edit: just saw whisperers post, good one. MTBing the melting pot! I love it!

Tom_B's picture

Nice work, great ideas and good to see that there are oportunities coming to improve the trails.

I live on the corner at the entrance to Perimeter Trail in Terrey Hills so I get to see first hand the amount of people who ride even this less popular trail, the numbers are far larger than represented in any of the online forums. Seems to me that if we're going to get these people involved in trail advocacy we need 1 way of communicating simply with all riders. Personally I don't think that a forum based website like this one and Farkin will work, because most people dont want to have to check the site daily or get their email constantly bombarded eveytime someone posts. Perhaps creating a mailing list that is trail advocacy specific and does not send any irrelevant material is a good start to unifying any movement; this keeps it simple and to the point so that it is easy for people to get involved. No idea how or who could do this, but I think it's probably the best start.

Tom

Stuart M's picture

http://nobmob.com/node/2737

Was set up a little while ago but never gets "bumped"

Rob's picture

Yes... the trail advocacy group can be used as a mailing list... but we're saving it for when action is needed.

You can join the group with this link:

http://nobmob.com/og/subscribe/2737

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