We need to protect our remaining bushland in Sydney before it is lost to future generations. The area surrounding Westleigh Park has been home to 694 plant species, 14 mammal species, 134 bird species, 14 reptile species and 8 amphibian species according to the Atlas of Living Australia.
Hornsby Shire Council has created a draft master plan to develop Westleigh Park. Overall the area to be developed includes 36ha of land with 10ha already cleared. Most of the cleared area will be redeveloped into 2 sporting fields (1 likely to be synthetic) and 1 athletics field.
The remaining bushland in this area is incredibly special, it contains critically endangered and endangered ecological communities as well as threatened species of flora and fauna. It has an intrinsic value not only for the local community but also at a State and National level.
Hornsby Shire Council has decided to undertake a consultation process that assumes that mountain bike trails in this valuable bushland are a given. The only question in their mind is where to put them.
Mountain bikers have built trails zigzagging through critically endangered Sydney Turpentine-Ironbark Forest at Westleigh Park. They have also built extensive trails in our local National Parks. This is illegal and has resulted in severe damage to our Berowra Valley bushland.
At one of the consultation workshops a local resident said “Let’s take a step back” and not just listen to one highly vocal and organised group of people and think about what is important for the whole community and for the area itself. In NSW walking is the number 1 recreational activity, cycling comes 5th and mountain biking is a small subset of the overall numbers of cyclists.
The recent State Government Draft Cycling Strategy stated that there are over 30,000km of maintenance trails in the National Parks of NSW alone. These provide ample opportunity for children and families to engage in mountain biking close to where they live. Additional family-friendly trails do not need to be sanctioned in the most ecologically sensitive areas of Westleigh Park to fulfill a need that is already adequately fulfilled close by.
There are alternatives; Council has a $3.6M grant available to purchase a property which does not have native bushland and that can be used for a purpose-built MTB trail.
Council must not let a small group of people blind it to the potential to create a park that conserves our endangered forests, protects our threatened species and considers all of our native flora and fauna now and into the future. A bit of creative thinking will preserve our natural heritage and provide the Shire with world class mountain biking facilities.