PARK WATCH Article June 2024 |

Ongoing illegal mountain bike tracks threaten the biodiversity and heritage values of Box-Ironbark forests in the Greater Bendigo public land estate

Increasing harm is being done to Box-Ironbark bushland across the Bendigo region by the illegal construction and use of mountain bike tracks. This trend must be stopped, and illegal tracks in public areas closed and rehabilitated.

To date, Parks Victoria have been ineffective in preventing habitat loss and destruction wrought by illegal track construction and use. There are only two rangers for all of the national and regional parks in the Bendigo region, clearly insufficient to combat illegal activities in the parks. Additionally, there is only one officer from the Office of the Conservation Regulator (OCR).

We’re calling on our elected representatives to condemn the illegal construction and use of tracks. They must provide sufficient resources and powers to Parks Victoria and the OCR to:

  • prosecute the offenders
  • stop the illegal construction of tracks, and
  • restore lost habitat.

A footy oval in a national park?

According to calculations from crowd-sourced trail network sites, parts of the mountain bike community has illegally constructed at least 177km of tracks throughout the Greater Bendigo National Park, Bendigo Regional Park and nearby public land (deduced from, much of it over the past 10 years. The One Tree Hill and Wildflower Drive areas of the Greater Bendigo National Park, in particular, are riddled with such tracks.

There are already plenty of formal tracks through the forest for cyclists to enjoy. Some of the illegal tracks are even utilised for mountain bike sporting events, despite national and regional parks being highly inappropriate venues. Clearing of native habitat and heritage sites within a national park to install a football oval or cricket pitch, for example, would never be acceptable, but the area of native vegetation lost to illegal bike tracks impacts a larger area than this. Vegetation loss from 177km of tracks is equivalent to the loss of at least 17 hectares of bushland. All in places that have been protected for their biodiversity and heritage values.

Damage caused by tracks

Clearing of vegetation and rocks, and subsequent use for riding, creates damage to biodiversity and habitat by fragmenting the vegetation and causing erosion.

A key aim of Box–Ironbark Forest conservation and management is the recovery of native wildlife and habitat, as well as the protection of those that are not threatened. Greater Bendigo National Park and Bendigo Regional Park are home to many notable, rare or endangered plants and animals such as the Eltham Copper Butterfly, Pink-tailed Worm-Lizard, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Powerful Owl and McIvor Spider Orchid.

Another aim is the protection, conservation and interpretation of historic places and relics, and significant cultural landscapes. Years ago the Bendigo community worked closely with the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council and its predecessors to protect the beautiful Box-Ironbark forests from further damage.

The community documented the wonderful plants and animals and their historic and cultural importance so that national parks, regional parks and nature conservation reserves could be created. Now we need to stop the damage being done by the creation and use of illegal tracks.

Bendigo & District Environment Council, Convenor Jenny Shield