Sustainable Bathurst | On the wrong track at Mount Canobolas

PROPOSAL: Will mountain bikers soon be hurtling down Mount Canobolas, near Orange? Environmentalists are concerned about the idea.
PROPOSAL: Will mountain bikers soon be hurtling down Mount Canobolas, near Orange? Environmentalists are concerned about the idea.

IT might be the depths of winter here but in France, it’s all sweltering summer and blokes riding their bikes through fairy tale landscapes.

The Tour de France on telly avec le knee rug and le hot drink is a nice way to start nodding off on a cold evening.

Locally, the Tour is a burst of inspiration for our hardy bands of cycle commuters and weekend Lycra warriors alike.

Cycling is, of course, an environmentally-friendly activity, up there with carrying your own keep cup. I’m all for it. But not everywhere and under all circumstances.

For some years now there has been a proposal to construct major mountain-bike racing infrastructure on Mount Canobolas.

The area is already used by mountain bikers on a casual basis but a Draft Plan of Management, now open for public comment, would see the construction of a 63-kilometre network of trails and the opening of the park to major organised events and commercial mountain bike tour operations.

An economic assessment commissioned by Orange City Council forecasts the development would attract 50,000 people each year from its fifth year of operation.

According to local environmentalists, the plan would be a disaster for the state conservation area managed by National Parks.

The extensive network of tracks through the bush would cause major soil erosion and further endanger the 12 threatened species that live there.

These include the Mount Canobolas candlebark tree (or silverleaf candlebark), Eucalyptus canobolensis, which exists only on Mount Canobolas.

At moments like these it’s worth remembering why we have national parks (and other types of protected areas) at all.

According to the National Parks and Wildlife Service website: “The state’s biodiversity is constantly under threat from activities such as agricultural land clearing, urban expansion, mining, logging, climate change, invasive species and diseases. NSW national parks provide areas where threatened Australian native plants and threatened Australian animals can be protected, monitored, stabilised and recovered.”

It will always be tempting to re-open these areas for business.

But if we want to preserve just a small taste of the ecosystems that were here before European settlement (that’s all we have now, with only nine per cent of the state conserved in this way) it’s a temptation we must resist.

Public comment on the Draft Plan of Management for the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area is open until October 1.

More information is available from the Office of Environment and Heritage at www.environment.nsw.gov.au.

| Tracy Sorensen is president of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network. Visit www.bccan.org.au.