October 29 - November 4, 2023: Issue 603


protected species destroyed in Woorarra Reserve Elanora Heights: habitat razed by illegal bike track

On late Saturday, October 28, 2023 a phone call preceded an email and photos sent in by a resident about a bush reserve, one which hosted rare and engendered plants, being destroyed by an illegal mountain bike track being recently built. This is one of a number of ongoing communications sent in about the destruction of public parks, bushland and reserves by illegal tracks for the benefit of a few and at the exclusion of all else. 

Everywhere this occurs serious injury to children soon follows, including hospitalisations, even in places that would seem to be safer - in local parks where illegal tracks have been built and allowed to remain by the Council. The need for helicopter transports and rescues from bushland sets whole suburbs worrying whether if it is their child this time as the sirens and loud blades sound overhead. Even if its not your child this time, distress for the youngster and parents affected follows.

Anti social behaviour and threats to others who try to use the tracks, if installed in a previously public family park for all ages, also follows, with both children and adults being told to stay out of the park as it is now 'their park'. The same threats happen when tracks are built where they destroy bushland or areas that volunteers have spent decades regenerating through bushcare groups. Some parents have joined in the threatening of others - this has occurred at Warriewood, Mona Vale, Newport, Avalon, Narrabeen and Ingleside. 

Residents have found both the Police and Council's approach to the addressing this problem, by actually attending a place where people are being threatened with physical harm when requested to show up, or providing obviously needed safer places for the sport that won't destroy or excise public parks or destroy rare and endangered plants and habitat in Council's case, out of step with community expectations and previously in place Council rules and current State laws.

As teenagers have repeatedly stated to Pittwater Online News; 'Bare Creek is too far away - how do we get there?'

In December 2022 all Councillors, except Cr Glanville and Cr Korzy who voted against the proposal, and Cr Regan and Cr Ryburn who were absent, voted for the formalisation of illegally cleared and unauthorised trails at Manly Dam War Memorial Park (Manly Dam), the Mona Vale Downhill mountain bike trail in Ingleside Chase Reserve, at Whitney Park at Mona Vale, Deep Creek at North Narrabeen (known as Mt Narra to mountain bike riders), and in Trafalgar Park at Newport. 

Community opposition to this had been expressed, en masse, but was ignored by the Council.

Councillor Stuart Sprott declared what was listed as a ''not significant non-pecuniary interest in relation to Item 13.3 and will remain in the meeting for the discussion and voting on this item''. The reason provided was: “I am a mountain bike rider.” 

Cr. Sprott also spoke in support of the Item, explaining he had been one of those people who cut illegal tracks as a young person but opined that with education young residents could be made aware of the problem they cause in the environments they destroy building illegal tracks.

The residents email:

''I would like to draw your urgent attention to illegal clearing and modification of the environment at Woorara Reserve Elanora Heights by mountain bikers clearing and building formal paths and jumps. This is creating permanent and irreparable ecological and environmental damage and impacting the natural environment and public amenity of this truly special ecosystem which is situated on council managed land and abuts Deep Creek reserve. 

Their actions include clearing, cutting and removal and destruction of plants, ground work such as digging and moving large volumes of dirt to form banks, jumps and wider paths, drilling into sandstone rocks to modify the shape of them, moving rocks to make ramps, regular trimming of paths. A consequence of this is severe erosion in sections, habitat and species loss.

In March this year I decided to survey and identify the native terrestrial orchids in Woorarra Reserve. I had noticed 3 species at that point. I have discovered that there is a remarkable variety of orchids, and large populations, in close proximity, and a relatively and unusually small area that I have seen in no other location in the LGA, or NSW. 

Orchids are at particular risk of climate and environmental change, illegal clearing, and illegal collection. Our local orchid community keeps this location a tight secret.

In the last 8 months I have seen the species below. I still have 4 more months to go!

Acianthus pusillus

Acianthus exsertus

Acianthus fornicatus

Arthrochilus prolixus (only 2 known locations in LGA, this is the larger population and had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Caladenia alata had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Caladenia carnea had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Caladenia Glossodia had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Caladenia Major had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Caleana Major largest population I have found in LGA outside KCNP

Calochilus paludosis 

Calochilus robertsonii

Corunastylis fimbriata

Corybas actinoflorus – at risk from xanthohrea trimming

Cryptostylus erecta - had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Cryptostylus subulata - had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Possibly Cryptostylus leptochila – waiting to see it open - had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Dipodium variegatum - including extremely rare leucitic form had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers in 3 locations

Possibly Dipodium Roseum – waiting to see it open had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Possibly Dipodium Punctatum – waiting to see it open had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Microtus unifolia – at risk from erosion from bikers digging and widening trails

Pterostylis curta - had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Pterostylis pendunculata - had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Pterostylis baptistii - had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

Pterostylis alveataI  - had been disturbed by the actions of the bikers

I have not seen, but been told they are there, 4 different Thelymitra – ixiodies, carnea, penticulata, pauciflora.

There are beautiful stands of a number of kinds of xanthorrhoea, and many other plants, some category 3 sensitive.

I have just returned from 3 weeks work away and took a walk this afternoon to discover that a 100m long section of what was once a barely discernible single person path, has now been cleared to 3 – 5 m wide track with jumps and ramps. Many plants have been destroyed and there were a number of mountain biking teens with shovels working on it. I called out to them to stop and they yelled obscenities at me. I asked them to leave, and they did but only after I said I would call the police. I am sure they will be back. During Covid I found kids doing the same and confiscated the mattock and shovels they were using. I was verbally abused and physically threatened, including death threats, after this. Intimidation tactics were used including threatening my children, and men in big utes doing regular, and repeat, slow drive bys past my house for a week – one was using a ... vehicle. I was also followed on a number of occasions by these vehicles. My dogs were let out of my front yard to wander on the street and my rubbish bins were upended.

I am attaching photos of some of the damage but I would like you to make time, as soon as possible, to walk the track with me and see the damage in person because the photos do not tell the whole story. We need to stop any further illegal clearing and associated damage. I have a roster of locals who will take turns to sit in place over weekends, and after school,  to ensure the current damage does not continue. This is, however, not sustainable long term and places us at potential personal risk. 

I shared the information above with my online orchid group and many people have reported they are seeing terrible damage from the same all across NSW. One man, a bush regenerator, was contracted to repair some illegal trails and was assaulted and received death threats by organised group of mountain bikers, one of which operates in our area. 

Surely it is time to put our environment first and STOP this illegal and devastating activity.''

The resident stated we could not publish two endangered species -  category sensitive 2 species - as people come to steal them if their location is known or disturb the site. The reason a 12 month study of an area is conducted is because some of these rare orchids exist as subterranean tubers during most of the year. Once these tubers produces leaves and then flowering stems you can confirm they are present in the soil. 

Our area, Duffys Forest - Terrey Hills - Ingleside and Belrose, soils support a specific and distinct vegetation type, the Duffys Forest Vegetation Community which is listed as an endangered ecological community under the TSC Act and ranges from open forest to low open forest and woodland.

A few more of the photos sent in: