By Nichola Davies / LGAQ Digital Journalist
The Bunya Mountains has long been a place for nature lovers to explore, with wonderful walking trails traversing through rainforest, grasslands, open forests and woodlands. Now, it’s a place to pack the bike for a day out, too, no matter what your mountain biking abilities are.
Western Downs Regional Council (WDRC) has cut the ribbon on 18 kilometres of new mountain bike trails through the Bunyas, of varying lengths from 1.3 kilometres to 6.3 kilometres.
It’s a project Council has been working on for some time. WDRC CEO Jodie Taylor said the project was one of four destinations identified by Council to position the Western Downs region as a place to visit for authentic rural experiences, not to just travel through.
Pre-COVID, Council recognised that mountain biking was growing in popularity and was one of the key ‘megatrends’ identified by the Australian Sports Commission.
“Russel Park [in the Bunya Mountains] was described as having impressive potential for the future development of mountain bike trails, with exciting elevation changes, a suitable natural environment, an extraordinary landscape and opportunities to view unique features and landforms,” Ms Taylor said.
The Master Plan of the project was finalised in August 2019 by a consortium of subject matter experts on behalf of WDRC and was one of several fast-tracked projects as part of Council’s COVID-19 Recovery Package.
“From the beginning of the detailed design stage to completion of trail construction, the project took approximately three years,” Ms Taylor said.
“[There was] extensive community engagement including consultation including consultation with Traditional Owners, environmental consultation and approval and the appointment of a construction contractor that specialises in mountain bike trails of a similar nature.”
Being a sensitive natural environment, the construction of the trails was conducted carefully. In 2022, the project was significantly impacted by prolonged wet weather causing construction delays.
“During this time an invasive organism called Phytophthora Multivora was identified within sections of Russell Park,” Ms Taylor said.
“The identification of these sites required the realignment of some trails and changes to the project scope to protect the natural environment.
“This added to the original construction timeline, but it was important to Council that the environment was managed carefully and respectfully.”
Council celebrated the official opening of the trails on 2 September with a Welcome to Country, smoking ceremony, speeches, ribbon cut and sausage sizzle.
The trails were officially opened in September
“The community was given the opportunity to explore the trails on bike and on foot, with the first 50 riders to complete one of the trails receiving a special merchandise pack,” Ms Taylor said.
“It was a fantastic morning celebrating the opening of the region's newest adventure experience.
“Council has received fantastic community feedback since the trails were opened to the public.
“They’re being enjoyed by local residents and visitors alike, which demonstrates the value of the trails and the benefits of creating a new opportunity for people to head outdoors and explore our wonderful region.
“I encourage everyone looking for an outdoor experience in a stunning national park to come and check out the trails!”