EARTH FIRST | The five areas that would be impacted by trails on the Mount

OPINIONS DIVIDED: The proposed Mount Canobolas mountain bike trail has stirred plenty of debate, extending beyond the interested parties in the Orange area.

OPINIONS DIVIDED: The proposed Mount Canobolas mountain bike trail has stirred plenty of debate, extending beyond the interested parties in the Orange area.

Due to the unique environment of Mount Canobolas, the proposal to open up the State Conservation Area for a major mountain bike network is an issue of regional, not just local, significance.

For this reason the Central West Environment Council – a regional umbrella group – has become interested in the proposal’s impacts, briefly described below.

Much has been written on the environmental effects of both the creation and usage of mountain bike trails. 

In a nutshell, it boils down to five areas impacted: soils, vegetation, wildlife, water, and other visitors.

The effects on the soil include increased erosion, nutrient-leaching, changes to soil biology, and soil compaction.

The effects on other visitors are uncertain, but people wishing to experience the mountain’s natural and peaceful atmosphere may be put off by such a commercial development.

Cilla Kinross

All these lead to further impacts on the vegetation and water.

They are exacerbated in steep areas, particularly during construction, and the mountain is mostly steep. Good design will reduce, but not eliminate, these impacts.  

Effects on vegetation include a direct loss of plants, including threatened species, due to the construction of 68 kilometres of trails and infrastructure, changes to vegetation character due to trampling (especially during competitions), and the possibility of the spread of deadly pathogens and weeds.

WORTH PRESERVING: Mount Canobolas has been the source of spirited debate in recent times.

WORTH PRESERVING: Mount Canobolas has been the source of spirited debate in recent times.

Mount Canobolas has a significant weed problem and an increase in trails would exacerbate this.

Effects on wildlife include the loss of biodiversity and fragmentation of habitat, barriers to movement, disturbance and stress, risk of collision due to the speed and silence of bikes, and an increase of invasive animal species such as foxes, pigs and blackbirds that spread along trails.

Water is affected in the following ways: the erosion results in siltation and turbidity of mountain creeks, impacting on the aquatic flora and fauna, and there would be an increase in human waste, causing contamination of waterways.

The effects on other visitors are uncertain, but people wishing to experience the mountain’s natural and peaceful atmosphere may be put off by such a commercial development. So there is a risk that one tourist attraction such as this may alienate other visitors.

Any one of the above might cause one to reflect on the appropriateness of this type of development in such a small, but regionally significant, reserve.

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