WDRC plans to install a bike-washing machine – possibly similar to the ones already used by bushwalkers in the nearby National Park – to limit the spread of the plant pathogen Phytophthora (Photo: NPWS)

October 14, 2021

A plan by Western Downs Regional Council (WDRC) to build a 30km network of mountain bike tracks at Russell Park in the Bunya Mountains has provoked concerns from some residents.

Gerald Tooth, who owns a property adjoining the proposed location of one of the tracks, said he had been trying to obtain answers to several simple questions about the project from WDRC for more than 12 months.

However, he says the Council has been reluctant to supply even the most basic information about the $2.1 million project, despite repeated requests.

Speaking to announcer David Iliffe on ABC Radio, Mr Tooth said he was concerned one of the proposed trails appeared to cross an underground water source that supplies his house.

He also has concerns the Council may not be planning to include enough new parking spaces to accommodate expected visitor numbers.

He is also worried that a proposed bike wash to be built at Munro’s Camp, designed to limit the spread of the plant pathogen Phytophthora, may pollute local waterways.

And he believes Council plans to demolish a wheelchair-accessible walkway at Munro’s Camp, which provides access to the only wheelchair-friendly trail in the mountains.

Mr Tooth said he first found out about the mountain bike trails plan more than a year ago through a WDRC press release.

Most of what little information he had been able to gather since that time had also come from Council press releases.

He said this was despite repeated efforts by himself and the Bunya Mountains Community Association (BMCA) to get detailed answers to straight-forward questions they had about the project.

Mr Tooth said a number of Bunya Mountains residents had concerns about the traffic and parking issues the trails might generate, and other possible effects the trails might have on existing residents.

While BMCA had held two meetings with WDRC officials in recent months, most of those questions had not been answered.

He was also yet to receive any formal notification from the Council about the project, despite the fact it was being built next door to his property and the fact that Council has now awarded a tender to a company to construct the trails.

Mr Tooth said that from his point of view, the entire process had been opaque.

He said there were three groups in the Bunya Mountains – those in favour of the project, those against it and those who were ambivalent towards it.

One thing they had in common, though, was the feeling WDRC were pushing the project through without taking the community’s views into consideration.

WDRC responded to Mr Tooth’s criticisms with the following statement to ABC Southern Queensland:

Western Downs Regional Council is delivering approximately 28 kilometres of new mountain bike tracks at Russell Park in the Bunya Mountains which will offer a new adventure experience and support economic growth in the region.

Given the unique and environmentally sensitive nature of the project, numerous assessments and approvals were required during the planning stages, which meant the design was unable be finalised and shared with the public until these assessments were finalised.

Ensuring a design that achieves the best possible outcomes for the environment and the site’s cultural heritage meant Council had to be flexible, and the final alignment was not determined until June 2021 when the project received environmental approval from the Department of Environment and Science and DTMR.

A meeting with the Bunya Mountains Community Association was held in August to update the community on the project and the council has been liaising separately with individuals to address their specific questions, including Mr Tooth.

Council is excited to be working with Common Ground Trails who specialise in mountain bike trail construction projects, and looks forward to seeing works progress over coming months.

One of the first steps onsite will include inviting neighbouring property owners to walk the alignment near their properties to gain a full understanding of the location of the new trails.

Council will continue to keep the community updated as the project progresses, and we move closer to completing another exciting new destination for the Western Downs.

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