Words: Will Shaw

Photos: Matt Staggs

With mountain biking’s exploding popularity since the beginning of the COVID era, urban and suburban councils are being forced to tackle increased illegal trail building in bushland across the country. In Sydney’s Georges River Council (located just south of Sydney Airport) there’s been an increase in illegal trail building in multiple locations, as the demand for off road cycling facilities far outweighs supply.

For a long time in Sydney, mountain biking has been a forgotten sport when it comes to local councils, with many illegal trails closed with no alternative offered as a replacement. Georges River Councillor Sandy Grekas recognises the absurdity of this, and she’s put forward a feasibility study that’ll investigate a suitable location for an MTB and BMX facility within the Georges River Council.

Whilst the exact style of riding is far from finalised at this stage, and much of the rhetoric in this example leans towards BMX, the shift within local councils to recognise the growth of all off-road cycling disciplines was evident by councillors climbing over one another to suggest the facility should be built in their ward. You can read the official media release from Georges River Council below:

Bare Creek is a successful MTB facility located in Sydney's Northern Beaches Council.

Council’s Open Space, Recreation and Community Facilities Strategy identifies mountain biking as an emerging sport with rising popularity. To meet the needs of the community, Council is looking to provide a location for a dedicated mountain /BMX track that is specifically designed for the ultimate bike riding experience.

Georges River Councillor, Sandy Grekas proposed the idea at the latest Council meeting and has seen the increasing demand within the community for a dedicated track.

“Building a dedicated BMX track will give kids a place to go and will protect bushland like Oatley Park from damage, from illegal tracks,” said Councillor Grekas.

“This is a rare win-win, where both sides of the issue can agree that a dedicated facility is desperately needed.”

With an increase in illegal bike jumps, the works often cause disturbance to native vegetation, impacting on fauna habitat, creating weed intrusion, and causing soil erosion and stormwater pollution running into creeks during wet weather.

There is additionally, a great risk to the safety of the public if Council is unaware of the track and cannot promptly remove it.

Council currently receives a high number of requests for dedicated BMX or mountain bike facilities from residents, and the emergence of mountain biking as a sport has meant there is a strong recreational and community need.

“BMX racing is now an Olympic Sport, with Aussies representing us all the way in Tokyo including Logan Martin who won gold over the weekend in the men’s BMX freestyle competition,” said Georges River Council Mayor Kevin Greene.

“It is a great opportunity for Georges River to provide a track for our bike riders to practice and hone their skills of future Olympians for years to come.”

In her proposal to council, Councillor Grekas noted that a suitable replacement for an illegal track in 2012 hadn’t eventuated, however the feasibility report into a new facility will also investigate the potential for council management of existing informal tracks, which could provide more legitimate mountain biking options for Georges River residents.

Whilst this news is on the local scale, this shift from councils across the country to recognise mountain biking is an important time in the growth of our sport. We’ll continue to cover it as best we can with announcements like these hopefully being followed up by more places to ride in our cities and regions!