Biking battlelines drawn

Taelor PeluseyAugusta Margaret River Times
Peter Wood and Elwyn Franklin from the Historical Society will join the roundtable discussions.
Camera IconPeter Wood and Elwyn Franklin from the Historical Society will join the roundtable discussions. Credit: Taelor Pelusey

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River is set to hold roundtable discussions with community groups and mountain-bikers to smooth over simmering tensions linked to environmental, historical and planning woes.

Seven community groups presented a united front this week, urging the Shire for more ground-level planning in the rapidly growing mountain-biking sector, but the region’s peak mountain-biking body has hit back, saying Australian practices are among the best in the world.

In a letter addressed to councillors, Margaret River Regional Environment Centre — with support from Friends of the A Class Reserve, Friends of the Barrett Street Reserve, Friends of the Margaret River, Spirit of Place, Margaret River Region Historical Society and Life Cycle Bikes — cited growing conflicts between “the natural environment and social environment” and mountain-biking.

“Although we welcome mountain-biking, we are also aware of the sport’s grand plans for the region. It is therefore imperative that the best long-term decisions are made based on orderly and proper planning, and the principle of good governance as outlined in the Shire’s Governance Charter,” the environment centre’s Neroli Carlton said.

“We strongly believe that more community involvement is required at the ground level.”

However, Margaret River Off Road Cycling Association chairman Dean Davies told the Times there was “absolutely” sufficient planning and accused the groups of fearmongering.

“What’s been going on in Margaret River is best practice, and quite frankly the way Australia works at the moment is working in favour of these groups,” he said.

The seven groups raised a range of issues such as whether it’s safe for walkers on trails used by off-road cyclists, bush destruction spurred by the widening of tracks and the use of “unauthorised mountain-bike trails”.

Another issue raised by the historical society was mountain-bikers’ use of the Old Settlement.

Curator Elwyn Franklin told the Times she hoped the historical society could one day take over the lease for the Blacksmith Shop and set it up as a fully fledged historical site in the Old Settlement.

Hairy Marron Cafe owner Paul Isles, who currently subleases the Blacksmith Shop, said he had no problem with the historical society’s future plans, as the shop, which he controls, is currently used as a storage shed and will soon serve as a temporary home for the Men’s Shed.

“No mountain-bike group that we know of plan to take control of it after the Men’s Shed move in to their future premises,” he said.

“We have always worked with them in any way possible to assist them and further their cause, which all of us who work at the Marron believe in and support.”

Shire acting chief executive Annie Riordan said the site’s concept plan was to use a range of means to reinvigorate the site and “council endorses the leases on the premise (the two activities) could co-exist”.

Friends of the Barrett Street Reserve member, Peta Goodwin, believed the mountain-biking hub was in an “inappropriate” and “dangerous” place, and would be far better suited elsewhere, while Mr Davies argued it a “fantastic” entrance and offered an economic boon to the town.

Shire president Ian Earl hoped all the mounting issues could be “thrashed out” at the roundtable discussion.

“I would like to think some time in the next few weeks or so, it’d be good to get everyone together ... because we’ve all got to work together on this,” he said.

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