Trail Riders

Denmark community split over mountain bike and walking trail plan

A proposed hiking and bike trail near the tourist town of Denmark has environmentalists and mountain bike riders engaged in fierce debate.

While mountain bike riders have welcomed the proposal to provide family-friendly recreational trails in the Mount Hallowell area off Ocean Beach Road, green groups have slammed the idea as potentially destructive to the bushland.

Denmark Environment Center conventionor Bart Lebbing said the Mount Hallowell area was a “very unique area in that it has had very minimal disturbance”.

Mr Lebbing made a submission to the Shire of Denmark recommending the project, part of the Great Southern Regional Trails Master Plan, not go ahead.

“We have got animals like small marsupials and black cockatoos using that area,” he said

“And we feel that if that country is cut up into trails or cut through there, it will be an avenue for feral animals to go in. It will have an impact on the natural fauna and flora.”

Environmentalists say many people do not want the trail plan to go ahead.(ABC Great Southern: Mark Bennett)

Mr Lebbing said the feedback he received from the community was that “a lot of people don’t want this to go ahead”.

“I have talked with numerous [Indigenous] elders. They don’t want this to go ahead. They feel that it is a desecration of their sites,” he said.

Bart Lebbing DEC
Mr Lebbing is concerned about habitat loss for native fauna.(ABC Great Southern: Mark Bennett)

Hundreds of submissions to council

Denmark Shire received more than 380 online submissions and 500 emails and letters during the public consultation phase, which closed last week.

Shire chief executive David Schober said while the project was still at the concept stage, he expected the debate would continue for some months over where the network of trails would eventually be built and how it would be funded.

man in suit
Shire of Denmark chief executive David Schober.(Supplied: Shire of Denmark)

“We started the process in earnest more than 12 months ago, but the conversation around mountain bike trails has been one dating back almost four years,” he said.

“There is a lot of very passionate people in Denmark on both sides looking at the environment and conservation, and equally as many passionate people in terms of driving the future growth of Denmark and looking for opportunities, particularly for families and young families wishing to move to the area.”

The town’s debate about creating its first shared recreational space for walkers and riders came after many small communities in the South West had successfully established similar trail networks.

Increasing visitors to bike trails

Margaret River, Dwellingup, Nannup, Pemberton, and Collie have experienced a growth in visitor numbers since they built multiple-use trails near their towns.

Experience Nannup project manager Mark Hudson said Nannup benefited enormously from the two mountain bike parks it built with help from the state government.

“It’s really positive,” Mr Hudson said.

“The state government is spending large amounts of money on trails, it’s not just mountain bike trails, it’s multi-use trail runners, horses, bushwalking.

“So, there’s new strategies are out there to encourage people to get out.

“They’ve got different distances, short and medium and longer distance, obviously, the success of the Munda Biddi trail, the Bibbulmun track, have been very, very positive for the communities.”

Nathan Devenport
Nathan Devenport runs a local bike shop and supports the trail.(ABC Great Southern: Mark Bennett)

Nathan Devenport runs Denmark’s bike shop Monkey Rock.

“I’m hearing a lot back from the community, to be honest,” he said.

“Obviously, there’s been quite a lot of negativity within the public eye, newspapers and that sort of thing. But that’s not really the consensus I’m getting from the public.

“I think they are really craving something for our youth, I think they feel that they’ve missed out on a bit over the years.

“And this is something that’s a free asset for them to use once it’s established. And it’s just a good wholesome activity.”

Mr Devenport said people had approached him in the main street who had nothing to do with mountain biking who thought the plan “was an absolutely brilliant idea”.

Submissions to the council were now closed, and Mr Shober said the shire’s officers were working to deliver the initial report on the project at September’s council meeting.