Our locals in the Upper Yarra Valley are a unique demographic and our lifestyle here has a character that will be wiped away by the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination. You cannot have a major Mountain Bike Destination take over an area without totally changing it and we are not Terra Nullius. The Upper Yarra Valley residents have created their own very vibrant community.
Those that come here have often been attracted by the peace, tranquility and beauty. Those who love Nature, walking in the mountains, collecting knowledge about the animals, plants and geology of the area; those that have come here for the higher rainfall and the beautiful backdrop so they can create gorgeous gardens.
We also have artists and craftspeople making communities of potters, painters, woodworkers, sculptors, jewellers, print-makers, spinners & weavers, patch-workers, mosaic makers, photographers, etc. Our Arts Centre has a large gallery for exhibitions and our Waterwheel a smaller one that are both well used. The Arts Centre also has two rooms with stages that host our film festival, amateur acting groups, classical concerts, choirs, dancing troupes, Christmas markets, etc. We have a vibrant music scene.
Our other sports are having their ovals encroached on and their parking also and our horse owners have to calm frightened horses as cyclists whizz by, while their home – Wesburn Oval will now be shared with mountain bikers and dog walkers will be losing their piece of the park – where will they be moved to? Golfers will be sharing their facilities with mountain bikers with their car park turning into the main trailhead for the Waburton Mountain Bike Destination and a zigzagging track right through the middle of the golf course. How is that feasible?
Our area is well known for it’s festivals over the years, with our Woodworker’s Festival, Nordic Festival, Harmony Festival and currently our River Folk Festival, Fiddler’s Convention, Ecotopia and Sun Festivals. No locals have put on Bike Festivals. Bike Events are imposed from outside and resented by many locals. They do not appeal to as broad a spectrum of people from the old to the young and all genders and lack the feeling of inclusivity that our homegrown festivals do. While cycling events start at 4 am or 6 am with traffic and blaring loud speakers, our events have only quiet set up beforehand. They are also highly attended by locals while these outside events are a signal for many locals to stay home to avoid the unpleasantness.
The mountain biking scene is 85% male, predominantly in their thirties and forties. Only 1.5% are over 50 years old. This is an extreme sport the definition of which is a sport that risks serious injury. That’s why it is called “extreme”.
The Social and Economic Assessment report 2019 put out by the project estimates we will become a “transient” town with few locals. How is that a benefit to locals? What does that mean for our local groups?
Will all these pockets of people (and more) survive as robustly once the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination arrives? Or will our culture be taken over by a tourist and bike culture. Will the gardens in Open Gardens all become landscape designer B&B gardens instead of the heart put into a private garden by its owners? Will the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination try to encourage art by putting some slick corporatised artwork along the trails? Will our cafes lose their passion for putting on live music, plays and filling their walls with the artwork of local artists? Or will it just be the ever encroaching bike sculpture?
Some of our local B&Bs are working out strategies of how to keep mountain bikers out while it is quite clear that bikers barely use cafes – families and the elderly do. We will be all pie and coke shops and pizza parlours with time.
Our culture won’t die overnight. But slowly for everyone who leaves, a mountain biker or short term accommodation will replace them. The mountain bikers will join the YRMTB and spend their spare time mountain biking. They may open a mountain biking business venture, buy a B&B, and they will be given first preference for any hospitality job in the Upper Yarra Valley (this preference is recommended in the IMBA – International Mountain Bike Association’s Gold Standard prerequisites, ie, staff that have mountain biking experience and know the local trails).
Goodbye Warburton! Hello the Mountain Bike Capital of Australia!