Illawarra environmentalists say mountain bike riders should not be adding to the network of tracks built up over years in the escarpment to avoid further damaging the bush.
In an opinion piece published in the Mercury, the Illawarra Escarpment Alliance's Emma Rooksby and Helen Wilson of the National Parks Association argue the alteration of terrain for jumps and tracks is not compatible with the environmental protection aims of the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area (IESCA).
"It's great that people love being in the bush and of course riders should have opportunities to follow their passion," they wrote.
"But informal mountain bike riding is so damaging that any rider who loves our local bushland and wants to look after it should not be using informal trails, let alone creating new ones.
"We have personally recorded trails, created in the last 12 months, that run over populations of rare and endangered plants, with no apparent awareness of the damage that has been done."
While mountain bike riders describe their sport as a low-impact activity that can exist in harmony with bush ecosystems, the writers argue the damage from "informal" trails is not minor.
"Informal trails destroy native vegetation, introduce weedy plant species, and fragment vegetation communities. They disturb local birds and animals, including rare rainforest-dependent bird species. They create erosion that further damages vegetation and can destabilise steep slopes."
The opinion piece says riders should wait for the outcomes of the process being undertaken by National Parks to develop a network of "formal" riding trails near Mt Kembla.
"In the meantime, we ask local riders to show good faith by not creating any new informal trails, and by respecting NPWS decisions to close recently built trails that they consider dangerous or environmentally damaging," they wrote.
This process has been continuing for several years. It is not clear what stage the plans have reached or when work on tracks may begin.
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