Plans to formalise mountain bike trails on Mount Keira have stepped up a gear – but there is still some distance to travel before they become a reality.
Representatives from Dirt Art, a mountain bike and recreational trail design team, are in Wollongong this week to check out the mountain.
Dirt Art has been engaged by Destination Wollongong (DW) and Wollongong City Council to undertake a feasibility study of the area, with public consultation also under way.
The work is the latest step towards formalising trails, but bureaucratic hurdles still need to be jumped.
In a report about the project, commissioned by DW in 2015, consultancy firm Cardno said the mountain’s land management could be prohibitive.
Mount Keira, which forms part of the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area (IESCA), is managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
“At present, NPWS and the legal documents which define the objectives and management of IESCA would be unlikely to permit construction of the Mount Keira Mountain Bike Park,” the Cardno report said.
DW’s Mark Sleigh said the organisation had spent five years working through “bureaucratic processes” with state and local governments.
“The final part of the bureaucratic process is for the National Parks and Wildlife Service to finalise a plan of management for the Illawarra Escarpment,” he said.
“We would hope that the work that ... Dirt Art do over the coming months would then be used to certainly mount a conversation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service that this is an effective use of their land.”
Mr Sleigh said the NPWS were working on a sustainable mountain bike strategy in other areas.
“This project very much fits many of the projects that they’re doing in other areas and we would like National Parks and Wildlife to consider including the Illawarra Escarpment as one of those key projects,” he said.
Dirt Art managing director Simon French has previously described Mount Keira’s potential as “something really unique and exciting”.
“The Greater Sydney area has really really poor access to formal mountain biking … so I think the demand for this is huge,” Mr French said during a visit to Mount Keira on Wednesday.
Dirt Art is on exploring the mountain’s existing trails this week and meeting face-to-face with stakeholders, including those responsible for land management.
The Illawarra Mountain Bike Alliance is also involved in the project and one of its founders, Gary Pesavento, described the feasibility study as a “major milestone”.
Dirt Art wants the public to have a say on plans for the area: www.surveymonkey.com/r/illawarramtb.