A team of volunteer trail-builders is calling on the ACT Government to work with them to fast-track the replacement of mountain bike trails lost to harvest.
Clear-fall harvest operations commenced in East Kowen Forest this week, forcing the closure of a large portion of the mountain bike trail network. The harvest will see the loss of up to 39 hand-built trails this winter.
“As trail builders, we are saddened to be losing so many trails in one hit but we have always known we are building trail in a commercial plantation at the permission of the land manager,” said trail-builder Alan Vogt.
The 5-year harvest plan will remove approximately 70% of the 120km trail network in East Kowen/Sparrow Hill – 110 hand built trails. This network has taken many years to build and represents many thousands of volunteer hours.
“We enjoy a good relationship with the land managers and communication is pretty good, but it is clear the harvest is going to create massive change and that will dramatically affect the riding out there.”
“It is challenging to see how the harvest could be done differently, but the trails are important enough to the ACT as a tourism destination for them to consider it,” said Alan.
“East Kowen and Sparrow Hill is a massive network of trails. It is a fantastic place to ride and is a huge drawcard for interstate riders.”
“Canberra was well-known as the mountain biking capital of Australia, but that title has been under threat for a good while now,” said Alan. “I don’t think it is really a claim we can make, hand-on-heart, anymore. Other places are investing considerably more and working harder to stand out as ‘must-do’ mountain-biking destinations. It has become a highly competitive space and we really need to address that.”
“We’re interested in exploring whether ACT Government could get behind volunteer trail builders and help to fast-track replacement of the trails lost to harvest, and I think that is how it should be approached.”
The volunteer trail builders – known as The Kowalski Brothers Trailworks – have a rich history of building trails in the ACT region. They have built trails in most ride locations in Canberra but have spent much of the past 6 years in Kowen.
More recently, they have built shared trails in Zoo Pines (behind the National Zoo and Aquarium), have worked with ACT Parks and Conservation Service to remediate illegally built trails on Black Mountain, and recently commenced work building shared trails in the National Arboretum.
When I spoke to him, Alan was at the Arboretum building trail with the staff of Trek Bicycles Australia, who regularly volunteer as a corporate community-engagement activity. The headquarters for Trek Asia-Pacific is located in Canberra partly on the strength of the ACT as a mountain-biking drawcard.
Alan listed a number of businesses who volunteer on a regular basis to help build trails with the Kowalski Brothers. The involvement of private enterprise and recognition of the importance of these wonderful amenities leaves the door wide open to the ACT Government to provide support.
“What can they do to assist with the replacement of the region’s largest trail network?” he asked of the ACT Government in regards to the Kowen trails, adding that forestry stakeholders are open to involvement in a potential Kowen Forest project.
“Losing trails impacts on cycle tourism, impacts on the viability of events and reduces the amenity for locals. We’d rather be out building more trail and growing the appeal of the Canberra region as a must-ride destination.”
“There’s a huge opportunity to make ACT mountain-biking the best in Australia – we have a unique opportunity with our bush capital setting, and we just need the Government to get on board and help us out,” said Alan.
Alan Vogt’s conversations with the decision-makers in the ACT continue, and he has grand plans. If he can make them a reality, the whole of our region will benefit.
Want to help out and get your hands dirty building trails around the ACT? Sign up here.
Anne Treasure is the Communications Manager for Pedal Power ACT. She writes on bike riding in the ACT from the perspective of someone who rides mainly for transport.