New Walking and Cycling Trails in the Arboretum

Some people will have noticed an article in the Canberra Times on 30 January about the planned new trails in the Arboretum https://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/act/new-12-kilometre-trail-planned-for-national-arboretum-20190128-p50u5u.html. The article took the Arboretum by surprise; the journalist having picked up the project from the ACT Government Tender website and not from talking to the Arboretum. Having said that, the contents of the story are substantially correct although the Arboretum itself has not yet made a public statement. ACTEA in accordance with the wishes of the Arboretum has not up until now distributed maps as the facility wanted to make its own announcement.

ACTEA has been in consultation with the Arboretum Management since April 2017 when it first became aware of the proposal to extend the existing walking and cycling tracks around the top of the hill more widely around the Arboretum. The original plan was totally unacceptable to to equestrians with numerous trails crossing the Bicentennial Nation Trail alone in around 20 places. The plan was also inconsistent with the map of Recommended Equestrian Trails created at that time by the Arboretum management. ACTEA was also concerned about expectations within some parts of the mountain biking community that these new trails would be 25 km of new mountain bike trails.

Over the course of the next two years, through several versions of the plan, ACTEA was able to negotiate to significantly reduce the impact of the new trails on the existing BNT route and the recommended equestrian trails. ACTEA has minimised crossings of the BNT, ensured any crossings occur at existing intersections and the Centenary Trail route is incorporate it into the design of the new trails rather than duplicate them. Intersections with horse routes will be appropriately sign posted.

Most significantly the Arboretum has now confirmed that the new trails will all be of a moderate gradient so they can be used by walkers of all fitness levels including pram pushers. This design characteristic is the most likely to make the new trails way too boring for mountain bikers. Hopefully, overall, the impact of the Final Plan on riders experience in the Arboretum has been minimised.

The only issue ACTEA could not make a significant improvement on was the fact that these new trails cut across just about every allee on both sides of the hill. This will make looking for a good long canter more problematic than it has been in the past.

The Arboretum advises that it expects to have selected a preferred tender by March and begin works as soon as possible after that. The Arboretum management has always been willing to keep talking to ACTEA and undertakes to stay in touch about any access issues as the trails are rolled out.

It will help ACTEA in its ongoing monitoring of these developments if riders advise of any issues they have during construction of the trails and afterwards as they come into use.

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