A new formalised mountain bike trail linking Mount Keira to Mount Kembla is set to save native wild life, flora and sacred Indigenous sites from destruction.
On Monday, the NSW Governnment vowed to create the dedicated 44 kilometre track by 2024 as part of a $31 million committment to tourism in national parks which will also include a five-day walking trail from Bulli to Botany.
National Parks and Wildlife Service deputy secretary Atticus Fleming said some existing trails would be upgraded and linked in with new trails, with appropriate consultation with the commuity and traditional custodians of the land.
"The first step in this new formal mountain bike trail network is to do a really rigorous assessment of both the environmental impacts and the cultural and socail impacts," Mr Fleming said.
"We're working closely with the local Aboriginal land council in doing that, and we've already identified areas where the mountain bike trail won't go on the basis of cultural concerns.
"Obviously there are some informal tracks at the moment. Where it makes sense for them to be part of the formal work we will upgrade them and make sure they're safe and environmentally acceptable, but there'll clearly be some new trails as well."
Mountain biking through the Illawarra escarpment has long been a contentious issue though the announcement was "a breakthrough" and moving in the right direction, according to Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery.
"We've got no other alternative," Cr Bradvery said. "Either we start formalising mountain biking trails through the escarpment or we risk damaging areas that are very sensitive ... not only in terms of flora, but also erosion and, what concerns me more, is people riding into sacred areas respected by the local Aboriginal community.
"This means we've found a solution whereby we can respect the Aboriginal heritage and put in the mountain bike trails that protect the natural environment as much as possible and get away from these informal, illegal tracks."
Member for Keira Ryan Park agreed and said developing and managing trails was crucial to protecting the local environment whilst at the same time driving tourism and economic development across the region.
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