Posts tagged trails
Coillte’s National Mountain Bike/Off-Road Cycling Strategy
As you may be aware, Coillte are in the process of launching their National Mountain Bike Strategy. The strategy has been in development for quite some time and involved numerous groups and stakeholders, including ourselves. We would like to explain the extent of our involvement in the process and our views on the final document – the positive opportunities it presents and also its shortcomings.
Over the past year we have been a member of the Strategy Project Group, working proactively with Coillte on certain aspects of the strategy. While initial relations between ourselves and Coillte were quite positive and our contributions were welcomed, late last year relations deteriorated significantly. Coillte are now refusing to engage with us any further on the strategy and are pushing ahead with a document that we are not 100% happy with.
There are several positive aspects to the strategy document. It deals very proactively with the areas of trail centres and club-based building projects. We cannot fault it in this regard and it is more positive than we initially expected. Coillte make it clear that they wish to see many more trail centres built, obviously contingent on funding. They will look to build a large number of facilities at new locations and to significantly reinvest in some of the facilities already in place.
Coillte have made it quite clear that they want to work with registered clubs to start local trail building projects. They have identified nineteen forest properties where they are ready to start dealing with clubs immediately on projects. They also make it clear that this list will evolve as new areas become popular and the scene develops. In the past, getting these types of projects started has been quite hard and we believe this strategy has dealt with possible issues making it far easier to get this type of project moving in future. In fact, pilot projects are already underway with more due to start in the not too distant future.
However, some aspects of the strategy are less than satisfactory. Firstly there are minor annoyances. There are references to bikes causing user safety issues and erosion. This is frustrating because it is largely untrue, but other than mentioning them as a reason why proper trail planning is important, no further mention is made so, other than the aggravation it will cause responsible riders, this issue is not critical.
The real shortcoming of the strategy is the whole area of general access and the bye-laws. Coille introduced bye-laws in 2009 which effectively ban mountain biking from their lands, except under permit. It was hoped that this strategy would offer a workable solution to the problems the bye-laws present to the mountain bike community. The strategy reiterates that the bye-laws are in place but doesn’t suggest any measure which deals with casual access, other than at a very low level in some forest parks.
The issue of the bye-laws and the whole area of general access was the principal motivation for us to get involved in the development of this strategy. The fact that it has not been dealt with leaves us in a situation where we will struggle to reconcile the reality of day to day Mountain biking in Ireland to Coillte’s position on general access.
Despite the concerns mentioned above, we would encourage clubs and individual bikers to embrace the positive aspects of the strategy. Apart from the possibility of new trail centres, clubs will now have the opportunity to legitimise their trails in popular areas. These are significant steps forward and will help ensure that our sport has a positive long-term future.
Cycling Ireland Off Road Commission.
Trials Rule changes (publication on the UCI website within 2, 3 weeks)
Construction of the permanent mtb trails at Ticknock in Dublin is now well underway. Unfortunately, the project has been delayed by the extreme weather in December which saw the hillls covered in 2-3 ft of snow. The projected end date for the full loop is now the end of February 2011.
Riders are requested to avoid riding on the new trials until they are officially open and signposting is in place. The lower section has been snagged in recent days and further works are to be carried out on it. As always, please be conscious of and courteous to walkers and other users of the forest when riding in the area.