The wild West Coast is the latest region in Tasmania to be bitten by the mountain biking bug, releasing a trails strategy for public comment this week that aims to set it apart from other MTB destinations.
The West Coast Council’s strategy has been prepared by well-known trail builders Dirt ART, who were responsible for the Derby and Maydena trails and are also currently working on a strategy for kunanyi/Mt Wellington.
During the recent federal election campaign parties were falling over themselves to promise money to develop the tracks network, with the Liberal–Nationals pledging $2.5 million for the project.
The Tasmanian Government has already given the council $500,000 to develop the strategy.
The strategy focuses on Mt Owen near Queenstown, but the council believes a network could be expanded to the Heemskirk and West Coast Range reserves.
West Coast Council Mayor, Phil Vickers, said the council had taken more than a year to explore the benefits of mountain biking and the places where it could be established in the region in development of the strategy.
‘The Council wants to get the approach right for the community in order to fully reap the benefits of a potential increase in tourism visitation, and what has emerged during this process is that the West Coast of Tasmania is extremely well-placed to be building some iconic MTB trails that do not currently exist in other parts of Tasmania or even Australia,’ he said.
The draft strategy points out that other areas in Tasmania such as Blue Derby and Wild Mersey are appealing to beginner and intermediate riders and that the West Coast could capitalise on its rugged terrain by building tougher rides.
The West Coast already has some beginner and intermediate tracks but as these are not built to the standard of tracks elsewhere in the state they have not done much to build mountain biking tourism, being more for local use.
The strategy suggests the west coast could offer ‘big mountain’ descents and back-country trails as these are not provided elsewhere in Australia.
Big mountain trails start above the tree-line and feature long descents and there are few of these because of the environmental sensitivities of developing trails in alpine and sub alpine areas.
Mt Owen is well known for its rocky denuded slopes caused by logging, mining pollution, fire and topsoil erosion. Views from Mt Owen, which can be snowcapped in winter, take in the stunning Wilderness World Heritage Area as well as current and past mining operations.
The strategy also suggests developing back-country trails that link towns along the west coast where accommodation can be provided rather than along trails for ‘bike-packing’ mountain bike riders. Such a trail could link Tullah, Roseberry, Zeehan and Queenstown.
While five ride concepts for Mt Owen are detailed in the strategy, there are no maps or more detailed designs. These would come later if this initial round of consultation supports the direction of the strategy.
You can provide your comments to the council before 2 August via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, post at PO Box 63, Queenstown TAS 7467, or telephone 6471 4700.