Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh reckons the city is now on the home stretch to offer a world class mountain biking experience on the Illawarra escarpment.
His enthusiasm stems from the release of the Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Strategy Public Exhibition Report on Tuesday.
More than 950 submissions were received during the exhibition period.
The report stated the high volume and varied sources of the submissions confirm a high level of interest in the proposal.
But there were objections to the plan, which outlines a network of 82km of trails on Mount Keira, Mount Kembla and Balgownie, formalising a network of existing trails which have been made by riders over the years.
The Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council (ILALC) opposed the strategy, with executive officer Paul Knight saying riding on Mt Keira "would be similar to allowing bike riding on Uluru".
Mr Sleigh though took delight that both the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong Council felt it was "not feasible to prohibit mountain bike riding on the escarpment".
"We look forward to working with regional stakeholders to ensure this project is not only planned, but delivered in a timely manner," he said.
"Regardless of the outcome of this process, mountain biking is going to continue every single day all over the Illawarra Escarpment.
"This planning process provides an opportunity to ensure sustainable trails are built and maintained in areas of lower cultural and ecological significance, and that all user groups have the opportunity to enjoy the escarpment in a safe and responsible manner."
Keira MP Ryan Park also backed the strategy.
"I have long supported the introduction of properly developed mountain bike trails in the Illawarra and see it as an important recreational opportunity for both locals and visitors to the region," Mr Park said.
He though was "very sensitive" to the concerns of the local Aboriginal elders and wider indigenous community.
"I have and will continue to insist on clear and consistent consultation with local Aboriginal elders so that the story and importance of the mountain to our aboriginal community can be shared and told to locals and visitors coming to the area," Mr Park said.
"We also need to ensure we are working collaboratively with local elders to protect sensitive cultural areas."
Mr Sleigh praised the "bipartisan approach" to progressing the project but encouraged stakeholders to deliver the strategy ahead of the 2022 UCI Road World Cycling Championship in Wollongong.
"We have a unique opportunity with the eyes of the sporting world on Wollongong in 2022, when we host the UCI Road World Cycling Championships, to highlight the fact our escarpment offers a world class mountain biking experience on the doorstep of a coastal city," he said.
NPWS and Wollongong City Council prepared the Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Draft Strategy in response to requests from the community and local MPs.
NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said 956 submissions were received during the consultation process and thanked the community for the high level of interest in the proposal.
Key recommendations identified in the report include the need for an Advisory Group to be established to find the most appropriate mountain bike trail network that protects the cultural significance of the site.
Also recommended is a cultural heritage assessment as well as a comprehensive and detailed environmental assessment.
"We are focusing on improving the access, infrastructure and experience of our parks because we want more people visiting them and I'm thrilled to see how engaged the community has been through this process," Mr Kean said.
The Draft Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Strategy Public Exhibition Report is available online here.