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Engaging Local Knowledge 

April 14, 2015
Engaging Local Knowledge

Australia’s wonderful sprawling landscape offers mountain bike riders a wealth of diverse nature experiences. How these trails are formed and maintained varies from state to state and can be complex; however a current proposal put forward in Victoria highlights how local riding groups can provide valuable input into the process.

The area in question is the Eumeralla mountain bike trail network; an unofficial set of trails near Anglesea in Victoria’s famous Surf Coast Shire. Like many MTB trails, Eumeralla developed organically over time by local riders becoming increasingly popular as word spread. It has even been used in sanctioned events. However, because the trails were not officially recognised, issues regarding maintenance, signposting and overriding responsibility were not properly managed.

To complicate the situation, the area involves multiple land managers including Parks Victoria, Eumeralla Scout Camp, Great Ocean Road Coastal Committee, Surfcoast Shire and Alcoa.

In late 2012, Parks Victoria commissioned an audit of the area which was undertaken by Dirt Art, an independent company that specialises in mountain bike and recreational trail design, consultancy and construction. The findings of this audit have been used to create a formal proposal for a trail network at Eumeralla. This formal proposal recommends a trail of some 10-12km in length, rationalising much of the current structure.
Throughout this period, a local group of MTB riders have been closely following the proceedings, with an interest to provide input into the trails, and actively engage in their use and maintenance. Recognising the need to demonstrate a unified and professional front, the group formalised their position under the name of the Surfcoast Trail Group (SCTG).

Eumerella MTB track

As local riders, SCTG is pleased to see Eumeralla progress toward formal recognition, however they would like to see the trails expanded, putting forward their own proposal to be involved in the design, usage and maintenance.

“It should be said up front that we are really pleased to see the area move towards official recognition as it is a fantastic spot currently enjoyed by many riders, walkers and trail runners,” says Craig Favaloro from the SCTG.

“We recognise that formalising the trails reinforces their future and enables many more people to enjoy this beautiful land. The alternative – to simply shut the site down – is something that no one wants.” Under the Public Land Mountain Bike Guidelines of Parks Victoria, the proposal is open for public comment, with Simon French from Dirt Art stating online that their project scope includes “engaging the public to gain feedback on the most desirable trails in the area”.

Given their knowledge of the area, SCTG has accepted this offer to provide feedback by putting forward their own proposal, seeking to see the official trails expanded.

“We have spent the past two and a half years developing a strong working relationship with Parks Victoria,” says Craig. “It is important to us that all levels of riders, trail runners and other users are provided with the best possible experience. We see the current proposal as very limiting, and so have made a detailed response to the Parks Victoria proposal with suggestions that will provide a much better network for all users.”

The proposal from SCTG outlines a desire to have a ‘Green’ level loop trail for beginner riders, with subsequent moderate and difficult trails to satisfy more advance riders. It also outlines how the area can support the growing number of trail runners in a manner that is safe and reasonable to everyone. Furthermore, the response proposes how SCTG can be actively engaged to promote and maintain the site.

In the greater scene of MTB trails, this is an interesting example of how a local group can provide input to the process with a unified approach to support and maintain.

“The best trails have something for riders of all experience levels,” says Craig. “We live in the area and so we know how Eumeralla is currently used. We have concerns that the Parks Victoria proposal is very limited and therefore would not satisfy all users.” Craig also adds that the proposal from SCTG has been made after consultation with other user groups in the area as they are keen to get the best possible result for everyone concerned.

“One of the land managers is the Eumeralla Scout Camp,” explains. “From discussions with the camp managers it was discovered that they have had some safety concerns with the usage of some of the trails in the camp. Our group met with camp management to discuss their concerns. This has resulted in some diversion works around high risk areas. We will always attempt to make any diversions more interesting to ride than the original trails.”

While the formation of SCTG has provided a professional and unified voice, it still requires the support of numbers to gain traction. As such, Craig is asking anyone with an interest in the specific site – or indeed riders anywhere around the country – to read through their proposal and form their own opinion.

“As I’ve said before, we are keen to work with Parks Victoria and welcome the great work they do; however we believe the proposal should be expanded for all users, and we have worked hard to form a thorough proposal that is viable, workable and also has economic benefits to the greater area.

“The best way for this to happen, is for all the relevant parties to recognise how many people want to see these changes, so this is an opportunity to be involved in the discussion and ensure the best outcome is reached.”

The proposal is only available for comment till 27 April 2015, so anyone interested is encouraged to act quickly.

In the greater scheme of MTB trails and the involvement of local groups, it will be an interesting case to follow.

SCTG has formed a single webpage with an overview of the Eumeralla trails and links to all documents. Should you wish to support the group or add your voice to Parks Victoria, you can do so through this link.

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