Wednesday, July 23, 2014

meeting of minds for mt evelyn

report from the roundtable – 22 jul

Last night council had to consider the issue of the investigation and development of a mountain bike trail through the Mt Evelyn Aqueduct Reserve. The issue came with past controversies. The reserve is cared for by the Friends of Mt Evelyn Aqueduct, they’ve worked for the past 30 years improving the site to the point the reserve is rated as the third highest in conservation significance amongst council’s 140 managed bushland reserves.

Back in 2011 there was concern about the extent of mountain biking on two unmade, unmaintained tracks in the reserve, in 2012 the informal trails were closed. The closures made the local mountain bikers very unhappy.

Last night council had to weigh up the best option and heard submissions from the Yarra Ranges Mountain Bikers (YRMTB) and the Friends of Mt Evelyn Aqueduct and MEEPPA.

The matter had first come to council at our June 24 meeting, however council resolved to defer the item as the parties involved didn’t receive formal notification and we wanted to encourage further discussions between all the parties to see if the issue of the best trail option could be agreed on.

It was terrific to hear President of  the YRMTB, Damien Auton,  say on multiple occasions that the mountain bikers supported ‘option 5’, the option which has the least environmental damage. Mr Auton received multiple questions from Cr Child on this change of view from the YRMTB, Mr Auton maintained at all times that “we support option 5 – our preferred option is option 5 – yes the definitive answer is option 5”. In addressing council Mr Auton talked about the group’s support for the development of sustainable mountain bike trails and best practice in trail design.  

The Friends of Mt Evelyn Aqueduct and MEEPPA were also clear supporters of ‘option 5’ as it recognised the very high conservation values of the reserve. The records in relation to this reserve indicate that nearby there are 26 threatened flora species and 25 threatened fauna species. The most striking and well known of these, the powerful owl.

It’s not impossible to maintain environmental values and mountain bike trails but it does require careful planning and good trail design and construction processes.

Option 5 looks to provide a single track mountain bike rail alongside the existing Mt Evelyn Aqueduct Trail. The existing trail generally meets the required 2.5m to 3m width for a shared use and this provides scope to reconfigure the main train to provide a single track mountain bike trail and a pedestrian/shared use track.

It’s a rare occasion that council considers an option that everyone is happy with, and it’s great to be part of a win win solution. I’m also really pleased that all parties came together heard the issues from both sides which eventuated in a shared agreement on what’s the preferred option.

Councillors voting for the motion:
Crs Dunn, Cox, Cliff, Avery, McAllister and McCarthy

Councillors voting against the motion:
Crs Child, Callanan and Witlox.

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At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was not an easy decision for the YRMTB committee to reach. We would have been exceptionally pleased to see the existing trails reopened, but for the sake of peace and harmony, and the reputation of YRMTB, we chose to put our personal views aside and make a big compromise. It remains to be seen if we made the right decision.

We hope that MEEPPA and Friends of Mt Evelyn Aqueduct will stand by their word that they will support the new trail construction. Considering that their President last night spoke against construction in environmentally sensitive areas, this is not a foregone conclusion, as the new trail would indeed be a construction in an environmentally sensitive area. However, after the meeting Mr Heenan said what we wanted to hear so now we will have to hold him to account.

At 6:24 PM, Anonymous tim heenan said...

Dont worry it will all work out and will end up something exciting for bike riders. Im looking forward to it

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Samantha Dunn said...

Much credit to YRMTB for taking the position you did. Cheers Samantha


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