Five more potential bike jump tracks at Engadine have been identified by Sutherland Shire Council.
They include Kingswood Road Oval, Holmlea Place Reserve, Forbes Creek Reserve, Ferntree Reserve, and Karamarra Road Reserve.
Council staff have been evaluating the sites along with existing locations at Lantana Road Reserve, Geneva Place Reserve and Brigalow Place Reserve.
A staff report, which is due to be considered at the council meeting on August 20, recommended “ward councillors and council staff undertake community consultation and workshops on the sites that offered the most potential prior to making any substantial changes to new or existing sites”.
The council decided in June to look for alternative sites after backpedalling on an earlier decision to allow unrestricted use of Geneva Place Reserve.
During the investigation, young bike riders have been allowed to continue using Geneva Place Reserve.
The new report recommended the council should “passively permit the activity to continue in nominated areas, but within defined parameters”.
“In line with legal advice, council should not construct or standardise the informal facilities, but could install signage to alert users to the inherent risks of bike riding.
“The known informal facilities should be periodically monitored and removed if construction and use becomes excessive or unreasonable.
“Further consultation with appropriate stakeholders, including local residents and bike riders is recommended prior to making significant changes to existing sites or encouraging the use of new areas.
“Any new sites should be implemented in a low key manner to avoid unreasonable intensity.”
The report said potential new sites were assessed according to risk factors as well as “less tangible features such as distance from local schools, topography, soil composition, and the availability of water for building jumps”.
“If new sites are nominated, it is estimated that between $3000 and $10,000 per site may be required to carry out essential fencing and signage works,” the report said.
“The funding needed to support new sites is not currently allowed for in council’s Long Term Financial Plan or current Operational Plan. “
The report said the construction of informal bike tracks and play spaces was common in many parks and bushland areas, and was particularly popular with youth in Engadine.
“In the past, council’s response has been to discourage the construction of bike tracks in bushland areas,” the report said.
“The rationale for this response is that tracks and jumps are generally not built to any standard, nor are they regularly inspected for safety.
“Construction of these tracks may also result in damage to bushland including areas with threatened ecological communities, areas which contain Aboriginal, cultural or geological heritage, riparian areas and/or areas of valuable bushland.
“Previously, tracks brought to the attention of council were removed, and measures such as fencing, signage, and mulching implemented to prevent further construction at the site.”
The report said, “although a relatively simple issue, the activity has caused division within the local community”.
“Informal active and imaginative play is an important contributor to the wellbeing of young people, however, balanced against this is recognising the importance of conserving the natural environment and protecting the work of Bushcare volunteers,” it said.
The report said the council has received feedback both in support of, and in opposition to, the Engadine bike tracks through social media, phone calls, direct correspondence, local print media, and face-to-face resident meetings.
“It is clear from the contrasting responses that there are risks in taking an exclusive approach to either position.
“On one hand, permitting uncontrolled use of reserves for bike riding will result in substantial pushback from impacted stakeholders.
“On the other, the destruction of all informal bike tracks will trigger negative perception as council will be seen by the community to be preventing active play by children.
“From the responses received there does appear to be appetite within the community for the activity to continue in appropriate locations, and within defined parameters.
“One of the most important stakeholder groups for buy-in to any existing or proposed sites are the young bike riders themselves.
“From an informal on-site meeting that was held between council staff and the riders, the children demonstrated a willingness to engage in conversation about the activity.
“The majority of the riders interviewed are young boys between the ages of 11-14 years.
“Most of them attend local primary schools, and for some this is their only outdoor ‘sport’ activity.
“The boys were enthusiastic about building the jumps themselves, and were prepared to ride as far as Heathcote to access ‘good sites.’
“When asked why they didn’t just use the new pump track at Barden Ridge, the boys advised that while it was ‘awesome’, they weren’t allowed to ride that far, it was too difficult to access via public transport, and that they could only go when a parent was available to take them.
“The boys confirmed that they ride their bikes almost every day after school and on most weekends.
“The boys also advised that they use Instagram to organise meet ups and discuss sites.
“When asked if they would be willing to attend a meeting about bike riding in the future, all agreed that they would be happy to come.
“When considering how to engage with the youth, council staff reached out to other organisations within the Engadine community.
“The principal of Marton Public School was contacted, and confirmed his support for holding a meeting/workshop at the school with young riders and their parents.
“Engadine Youth Services (EDYS) also offered their support, and were willing to attend the meeting/workshop at the school, and any on-site meeting with youth that council may have.
Council staff have prepared a Community Stakeholder Engagement Plan.”