Events over the last week have very publicly highlighted that the development of mountain bike trails in the Perth Hills have failed to keep up with the increasing demand from the mountain bike community. Mountain biking continues to be one of the most rapid growing forms of sport and recreation, however, unlike other more traditional activities it is not conducted on a sporting field or in a stadium. The natural environment, which we have in abundance, plays host to thousands of riders and we need a network of well-planned and well-built trails. 19% of the West Australian population own a mountain bike and people are looking to experience the outdoors, improve their health and fitness and socialise on the trails.
National and international experience and studies show how significant mountain biking can be to the health and economic development of the community through local, domestic and international tourism. Any activity that sees a growth in popularity at the rate that we’ve seen in mountain biking in Western Australia, will experience growing pains. The issues we are currently facing in Western Australia due to the lack of trail availability are not uncommon around the world. How we respond to, and how we manage and capitalise on this growing demand is what is important right now.
To be clear. WestCycle does not support or condone the building of unsanctioned trails. There are significant environmental, land use and heritage issues that need to be carefully considered. Most mountain bikers understand this and respect the land and their potential impacts on natural landscapes. The proliferation of unsanctioned trail building that is happening is a consequence of not keeping up with demand. It’s not an excuse but the reality of where we are at.
It’s time to acknowledge the imbalance between trail availability and demand and to enact the plans we have for the future of mountain biking in Western Australia. The mountain bike community, State and Local Government agencies and the McGowan Labor Government all have an important role to play. WA has the potential to become a world leading destination for mountain biking where people will travel to experience our unique landscapes and to ride world class trails. WA can offer huge diversity of experiences from tall trees in the south, food and wine excellence, coastal experiences, river valleys and remote outback adventures. It’s these opportunities that make Western Australia a unique and special place to ride a bike.
The Perth Hills are only 15 minutes from Perth Airport and this a major advantage. We see the success of places such as Derby Tasmania but fail to mention that it’s an hour and a half from Launceston Airport. We hear about Whistler in Canada, but that’s a 2-hour drive from Vancouver Airport. One of WA’s best opportunities for nature based tourism is located right on the doorstep of our state capital.
Blue Derby is a great example of the benefits of trail investment. It took over a decade of planning to get to where they are today – 80km of purpose-built trail, costing $3.1million that now attracts 30,000 visitors staying four to five days and spending $30million per year.
A significant amount of planning for trail development has now been completed. This has largely been driven by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC). There are plenty of passionate people advocating for increased mountain bike trails within Government. They see the benefits, they see the demand and the opportunity, they want people out in the natural environment and utilising WA’s parks. Yes, we may not always see each other’s point of view clearly, but both sides need to learn to worth together as our allies to achieve good outcomes.
Our issue isn’t about a lack of vision, planning or passion. It’s about the funding plans for trail construction. We have ‘shovel ready’ plans to create significant mountain bike destinations across the State. Collie-Wellington, Dwellingup and the Perth Hills are all key focus areas at the moment. In fact, there are plans with political decision makers right now for 200km worth of new trails in the Perth Hills.
What we need is a paradigm shift in funding. We need a political commitment to create Western Australia as a mountain bike destination of national and international significance. Building trails one kilometre at a time will not achieve this vision. Committing funding for the creation of the trail towns listed above will take vision from our political leaders to realise the potential. The data and cost benefit analysis support the investment. From national and international experience, we know that trails pay for themselves in a very short space of time. Now is time to take the leap and commit to invest in mountain bike trail construction in WA.
This week the McGowan Labor Government announced the Perth Hills as a tourism hot spot with a taskforce being created to realise its potential. Mountain biking should be front and centre in these discussions. Having shovel ready plans to bring people to the Hills means we are ready to press the button now. Further to this, there is a clear and demonstrable demand. Now is the time for a commitment to realise the potential for mountain biking in the Hills that we all know exists. Thousands of people flocking to the hills each weekend to experience our wonderful natural environment, in a sustainable, healthy and fun way has numerous benefits for our community.
On behalf of the cycling community we call on all political leaders to seize the opportunity for our WA to realise its potential and enact the vision that is already in place. We now need the political will and investment to capitalise on this amazing opportunity.