By Casey Neill
Warburton remains divided on the influx of mountain bikers destined to ride into town.
The Yarra Ranges Council meeting on Tuesday 11 September heard from four speakers against the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination project, and two in favour.
The following day, the State Government announced it would contribute $3 million to the project.
In July, the Federal Government chipped in $3 million, the Yarra Ranges Council added $2.7 million and the Upper Yarra Community Enterprise committed $300,000.
At the council meeting, acting Mayor Tony Stevenson closed the discussion with an assurance that “the doors are still open in terms of feedback”.
“We as a council remain open to the concerns,” he said.
Cr Stevenson said the process might not leave everyone absolutely happy, but the council was doing its best to get the best for the community and minimise any adverse impact.
Damien Flynn lives in Old Warburton and raised concerns about the traffic the new trails would create, to drop riders and their bikes to the tops of trails.
He’s already witnessed “drivers at top speed, trying to beat their mates to the bottom” and said most locals had been involved in near-misses.
“This proposal will affect our safety and the safety of our kids,” he said.
“God help us if there is ever a fire on our mountain and the whole road is clogged with tourists.
“I am not opposed to mountain bikes or mountain bike paths, but they should not be built in residential areas.”
Another Old Warburton resident, Rosemary Crowley explained the area’s history, pointing out the gold rush in the 1860s.
“Today Mt Little Joe and Mt Tugwell are scattered with mine shafts,” Ms Crowley said.
“Many are open and quite dangerous.
“Some that were capped years ago have been vandalised.”
She said the Yarra Yarra Gold Sluicing site was of archaeological significance.
“The ground surface is soft under foot and could not tolerate the bike trails that are proposed to go through it,” she said.
Ms Crowley said 140-year-old tree ferns and wild life abounded in the corridor to be widened for the trails.
Shane Crowley said he felt like the council had completely ignored his amenity “and I have no confidence at all that this will change”.
“Consulting is not the same as listening,” he said.
Mr Crowley said the council was using a 2015 mountain bike project in Derby, Tasmania, as a template but it had attracted many complaints from the town’s residents.
Barry Alexander is a passionate mountain biker and said a trail was proposed to run five metres from the back of his Old Warburton home.
“The first priority should have been to avoid the town and the people who live there,” he said.
“The last thing I want is to be woken up at 5am by people peddling past my house.
“This can go on for 16 hours a day, and this will be going on right in our back yards.”
Warburton Valley Community Economic Development Association (CEDA) president Peta Godenzi said Warburton needed “something else to survive” economically.
“It cannot exist on coffee and cake two days a week,” she said.
“People who live here are frustrated by the lack of development happening.
“The key to improvement will be the Mountain Bike Destination.
“We believe it will regenerate the town and the flow-on effect will be very positive.
“We need our young people to be employed.”
Andrew Swan told the meeting that the project would provide social cohesion for the region.
He said other areas with mountain bike projects had seen “tremendous increase in their business”.
Mr Swan said the Warburton area had some of the worst outcomes for youth and children.
On noise, he said most of the trails through Old Warburton were ascending so rather than yahooing, “people going up these ascents are gasping for air”.