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Wingate concerned over biking damage to national parks

Call to arms: Environmentalist David Wingate (File photograph)

The island’s parks are being destroyed by bike riders who cause erosion and “deep ruts” in pathways, according to a leading conservationist

David Wingate added that the needs of cyclists and pedestrians were “incompatible”, and that bikers should be given a separate space to carry out their sport.

In an e-mail to The Royal Gazette, Mr Wingate – a world-recognised conservationist who worked to bring Bermuda’s national bird, the cahow, back from extinction, said: “Bike users inevitably cause much greater trail erosion than pedestrians.

“This is especially true on steep slopes where deep ruts are created and result in serious soil erosion in heavy rain.”

Mr Wingate pointed out that public parks were established for the enjoyment of pedestrians – and that bikers were putting that pleasure in jeopardy.

He said: “I have always been led to understand that parks are for the passive use of pedestrians to enjoy the natural environment – nature – via walking trails to varied habitats and beautiful viewpoints.

“Harvesting of resources for commercial use is prohibited and harvesting for private use is limited to such natural crops like fruits and nuts, fish and shellfish, which can sustain it without modification of the natural habitat. Such use may have to be regulated to remain sustainable.

“Under this definition, most special interest sports, especially spectator sports involving the use of wheeled and motorised vehicles and spectators have to be excluded.

“Such activities are generally confined to areas specially set aside for them and modified for the purpose. Again, in respect to the shortage of land available, areas especially adapted for recreational sports areas are limited.”

Calling on planners to set aside a designated area for bikers to pursue their sport, Mr Wingate said: “The only disadvantage from the mountain bikers point of view is a lack of provision for a mountain.

“The only thing that I can thing of to address this is for the mountain bikers to buy or rent suitable private property for themselves with steep hillsides on which a challenging trail can be created.”

Mr Wingate added that motorised recreational vehicles such as scramblers had already been accommodated on the island in a designated spot.

He said: “As I see it there are some things we can do. We have already found a compatible solution for our motorised ‘scramble track’ vehicles, thanks to the extra space that the handing over of the military airport to public use made available in addition to Cooper's IsIand public beach and the passive recreational park there.

“Accommodating a scramble track was undoubtedly the most challenging project of all, because it is so obviously incompatible with passive recreational parks, noise, safety and erosion wise.

“Surely if we can find a solution to accommodating scramble bikes, we must be able to do the same for mountain bikes without impinging on our parks.”

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Published February 14, 2022 at 7:52 am (Updated February 14, 2022 at 7:52 am)

Wingate concerned over biking damage to national parks

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