A recent meeting with the MCC of NSW representative, Local Land Services, Forestry Corp and the Lithgow Environment Group was conducted to work out a way to protect Long Swamp from further damage.
With the loss of the only viable access bridge across the Cox’s River headwaters during the 2020 fires meant 4×4’s and bike riders have been transiting the swamp to reach the southern side. Clearly the damage this is causing to a very historic and endangered swamp area is not ideal so the meeting was an opportunity for us to work out just where in the “plan” us riders fit.
The new bridge is a long-term project so an alternate route has been determined that will provided a much better route for both 4×4’s and bikes and the current crossing near what was once the bridge will be blocked. Currently the suggested site is covered by water to a depth of 20cm but it will be lifted and leveled. This should eliminate any need to go off-trail.
FYI Ben Bullen SF is currently closed so be aware that you should not be riding in there in any case. While this project is rolling out there is expected to be increased ranger and police presences. The entry gate is sign-posted as no entry so please obey them. The risk is a fine around $2000…
The Happy Valley bridge is complete and ready for use!
From the Centraltablelands Local Land Service office:
“Happy Valley Swamp has suffered for many years as a result of 4WD and trail bikes driving and riding along the powerline track and trying to cross the swamp, creating a lot of damage. Over time this damage has widened as trail bikes (4WD access was blocked by a gate) have had to ride around standing water through the more accessible parts of the swamp. There is a long history of trying to manage vehicle access to the site and we have finally managed to implement what we are hoping is the final piece of work to enable trail bikes to safely cross the swamp and not damage it.
We are hoping over time that as trail bike access is restricted to a single crossing that the damaged sections of swamp can regenerate. Over the coming years we will be working to keep regenerating sections of swamp where access has been restricted. We are hoping to work closely with trail bike groups like Pensioners Express to restore the swamp. The reasoning behind the bridge was to stop the degradation and facilitate regeneration. This is the most important message.
This project is supported by central tablelands local land service and forestry corporation with funding from the Australian government.”
From our perspective as riders, it’s great that a solution was achieved that had the side-benefit of providing trail riders with a way across the swamp. We know it was never done specifically for us, but we’ll take it! 🙂
During the Summer 2020 fires one of the bridges over the Cox’s River at Ben Bullen State Forest was destroyed forcing forest users transit the swamp.
This particular swamp is a priority due to its size and importance to the local environment and anything we as riders can do to avoid it is much appreciated by the LLS and Forestry Corp. The plan is to have bridge repairs done as soon as possible so the swamp can be restored. It will be nice because we would then not have to get our bikes covered in mud. Pensioner Express Trailriders (Facebook group) is playing an active part on behalf of riders to help identify areas that us riders can easily avoid so that areas at risk can be regenerated.
Centraltablelands Local Land Services have a project to provide a level crossing for trail bikes through a section of the Happy Valley swamp behind Clarence MX track.
Huw Evans, the Senior Land Services Officer based in Lithgow has been asking around for assistance from local trail riders about the design of the bridge. Glenn Alderton, the Admin of the Pensioner Express trail riding Facebook group offered the services of the group in an advisory role to help Huw get the planned structure correct. An onsite meeting was held in late May 2020 and a plan going forward was decided on with consideration to the riders needs and the swamps protection. It will be a rock path of approximately 1 metre width with bordering fences. This will ensure a long-term pathway for bikes and a better future for the swamp.
Over the years the swamp has been heavily damaged by both 4×4’s and bikes and 4×4’s were excluded several years ago from access to the area. Bikes continued to transition albeit reluctantly due to the amount of water and mud.
This new bridge sees the initial stages of a long-term association with riders and government authorities seeking to develop solutions that satisfy all users of the forest.