Trail Formalisation

The Plenty Gorge Mountain Bike Club has secured State Government ‘Pick My Project’ funding to deliver 21km of formal mountain bike trails within the Plenty Gorge Park. The Club will work in partnership with Parks Victoria to deliver during 2019/20.

Consultants are working along the trails assessing them with regard to sustainability, environmental impact, heritage values, and (of course) fun factor.

Please respect that during this process some trails might be temporarily closed, and staff may be working on site.

You may see flagged trails and we ask that park users support this project by leaving them in place and alerting us of issues so we can have the best chance of achieving a formalised trail network.

If you’re looking to get involved let us know. The club is looking for more volunteers to help with the work, either on the ground or behind the scenes. Get in touch via Facebook or email – plentygorgemtb@gmail.com

If you have any Parks Victoria related enquires you can contact the team on 13 1963 or email info@parks.vic.gov.au.

Background

Plenty Gorge Park is a recreation and conservation reserve along the Plenty River, which stretches from Mernda in the north to Greensborough at its southern end. It has reputedly been in use by mountain bikers for at least 30 years now, using a network of informal trails, fire access roads and animal tracks.

It was early in 2012 that a bridge was built by mountain-bikers across Dry Creek, near what has since become known as ‘The Plank’. In October of that year, this bridge came to the attention of Rangers, and the acting Ranger in Charge at the time (Barry Coombes), posted a sign to advise that it was considered an unacceptable safety risk, and the bridge would be removed on 2nd November. Through that sign, the Ranger invited the local mountain biking community to engage with Parks Victoria (PV) directly. On 31 October 2012 I contacted key local MTB community figures (that I was aware of at the time), to propose a meeting with PV.

The first formal Plenty Gorge MTB Club meeting was held on 10 December 2013. PGMTB was registered as an incorporated association on 7 May 2014. The core administrative committee has remained largely unchanged since that time, and our 31 initial paying members have increased in number to between 70 and 110 throughout that time, showing that there is a substantial number of people willing to pay money to bring a formalised MTB trail network into fruition.

In June 2014 PGMTB was involved in community consultation by PV for the then Draft Management Plan for Plenty Gorge Park. In 2018 that Management Plan was approved and published. (Refer: https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/word_doc/0008/731456/Plenty-Gorge-Park-Master-Plan.docx)

Also late in 2018, PGMTB successfully applied to the Victorian State Government for funding under the Pick My Project initiative, securing $195,000 in funding towards the ultimate goal of creating a signposted, formally approved and endorsed MTB trail network. The funding agreement for this grant was finally signed off on 18 June 2019. Since that date, contractors for flora/fauna/environmental and cultural assessments have been engaged, and the real work of the project is to be completed by June of 2020, under the terms of the funding agreement.

Where to from here?

Up to this point, the vast majority of the work involved with this effort has been completed by the PGMTB administrative committee, with key issues put to the club’s membership for a vote, and occasional working bees making use of the many offers of feet on the ground with shovels and barrows.

There will be more opportunities for physical volunteers throughout the course of the project over the coming year, and well into the future beyond that, as it will be PGMTB’s responsibility to maintain the formalised trail network once complete.

PGMTB will be having regular (fortnightly) meetings with PV staff during the next 12 months. We will be engaging with contractors as they complete their assessments, discussing progress and outcomes with PV staff, and providing assurance that key milestones are being met so that payments can be made. We will be providing on-the-ground support by way of walking the trails with the assessors, providing precise mapping data, looking into route variations or alterations as needs arise, and lastly doing all the physical work involved, without any machinery.

We will need your help to get this process completed.

The future

PGMTB was established to advocate for the MTB community, but also to provide a channel for Parks Vic to communicate with riders.

The trails we are aiming to formalise constitute around 21km of the existing informal network, and this is limited to an area close to the Plenty Service Reservoir and Yellow Gum Picnic Area (Goldsworthy Lane and Memorial Drive, Plenty). We know, use and love a great deal more of the existing network, and we plan to advocate for the formalisation of further trails in the future. We will need to establish and maintain a much larger membership and administration to achieve these goals – given the amount of money involved in ‘only’ 21km is far greater than any of us had ever imagined at the outset, there will be fundraising required and grant applications to be written. If we are to be successful in our endeavours, we will have to apply considerably greater expertise than we have managed to muster to date.

The upcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM) is your opportunity to stand for a Committee position. All 5 of the current positions will be open for nominations – so if you want to influence the direction of the Club, and be actively involved in its future, please step forward.

We also want the upcoming AGM to be more of a social gathering of Club members than a task requiring attendance. We will be considering appropriate venues and timing to make the meeting more appealing to our members – something we would all really like to do, rather than something that some of us feel obliged to attend.

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