PARKS Victoria has conceded unauthorised mountain bike trails have become an issue on local land it manages, including the Bendigo Regional Park.
But north central district manager Peter Foster said the department was in the process of working with community groups to remediate the damage done by bikes, including educating people to report damage they see.
Mr Foster said Parks Victoria faced the challenge of having to manage a large area, and in Bendigo Regional Park, the last use was forestry which came with a legacy of the damage by vehicles.
The issue of mountain bikes on public land has drawn attention because of a masterplan submitted by the Bendigo Mountain Club that proposes building more than 50 kilometres of trails, some in the Bendigo Regional Park.
The club’s masterplan suggests converting some unauthorised trails into properly constructed tracks for riding on, and rehabilitating others.
But while local conservation groups have insisted they support mountain bike riding as a recreational use of parks, they also have been ignored in consultation for the masterplan.
Ecologist and Bendigo Field Naturalists member Richard Goonan said the masterplan had only identified 1km of trail to be rehabilitated.
He said soils in Bendigo Regional Park were “highly erodible”.
“When you remove leaf litter, soils start to erode away,” Mr Goonan said.
“And when you get high traffic confined to a narrow path, it washes away.”
Mr Foster agreed the soil types in the park don’t revegetate quickly.
Parks Victoria were also contending with illegal dumping in forests, off road vehicle users and firewood collection.
Development of the masterplan, which was partly funded by the City of Greater Bendigo, will have to be referred to Parks Victoria.
The council has accepted the masterplan and is considering it for development.
Mayor Margaret O’Rourke arranged a roundtable on the masterplan in April after conservation groups, including the field naturalists and the Bendigo and District Environment Council, demanded a hearing.
Cr O’Rourke and the mountain bike club have maintained the conservation aspects of the plan will be addressed when it is referred to Parks Victoria. But Mr Goonan said he was concerned the more the council spends on the plans, the more committed it would be to the project.
“We are not sure the council officers that went to the roundtable will necessarily take on our concerns,” he said.
“We are not aware that there will be any more consultation.”
Mr Foster said Parks Victoria would address all environmental concerns before submitting a report about the plans.