Dam’s 4WD ban outrages enthusiasts and locals
THERE’S anger brewing around Mount Morgan after Rockhampton Regional Council erected signs threatening to fine any four-wheel-drive or motorbike users on the Mount Morgan No. 7 Dam’s surrounding tracks.
The crackdown follows the decision by RRC to lure mountain bike riders to the area by spending $600,000 to develop surrounds of the dam to create five separate mountain bike trail loops, totalling 25km.
The decision to fine locals who were already starved for entertainment options, as well as visitors who provided a stream of revenue to local businesses, was “big deal at the moment” according to local business owners.
After seeing the tracks well-used over the past four decades, Mumma Kath’s Kitchen owner Tracy Ehlers said the controversy around the RRC’s decision to forbid their access was the talk of the town.
“Three weeks ago they put up signs saying no four-wheel driving, no motorbikes,” Ms Ehlers said.
“It was kind of disappointing because people need a place to go and now you’re not allowed to go in there with fines possible if they're caught – it’s only to be used by mountain bike riders.
“That has been very much on everyone’s thoughts and minds at the moment.”
She said the community was mobilising, setting up a Save the Mount Morgan Dam Facebook Group (which already has 853 members).
Petitions are also being circulated and media organisations are being contacted to arrange interviews bringing prominence to their cause.
“I would like to see them dedicate part of it to mountain bikes and give four-wheel drives and motorbikes a chance to keep coming up and visiting,” Ms Ehlers said.
“On a weekend especially, it brings business to town. People go four-wheel driving in the morning, they stop into my place or one of the other food outlets in town to grab some lunch.
“They head back to the dam with its beautiful picnic areas and we will lose out on that if it’s only going to be used by mountain bike riders, which we’ve never really seen up there anyway.”
Ms Ehlers is worried that those dedicated would be forced to go elsewhere to get their four-wheel driving fix, like to Five Rocks, while the council dragged its feet coming up with an alternative solution.
While she was supportive of the plan to create mountain biking tracks to attract riders to the region, Grand Hotel manager Melissa Chandler said there was a lot of talk online about the decision to block access to the dam’s tracks.
“For the last 20 years that I’ve been here, (going four-wheel driving or motorbike riding at the dam) is something everyone does on weekends – it gives the young kids and the adults something to do,” Ms Chandler said.
“They’ve been doing it for years and (RRC) have just put up a sign saying they can’t do it.
“People come up here from Rocky to do it so I definitely think it’s not a good idea.
“Where they do, it is not damaging anything. They’ve already been doing it for so many years.”
Ms Chandler implored RRC to let people keep using the tracks.
“It brings people up, it gives them something to do and the more people we can keep in town, and spend their money in town, is better for everyone,” she said.
Rockhampton Regional Council responds on dam ban
Acting Mayor Neil Fisher has defended the council’s signage forbidding four-wheel drive and motorbike access to the area surrounding the dam saying motorised vehicles were always prohibited.
“We understand there’s been some concern and disappointment over signs placed near the dam explaining that motorised vehicles aren’t allowed up there,” Cr Fisher said.
“Council holds this land as a trustee on behalf of the State Government, and the State Government has always prohibited the use of motorised vehicles in that area. It is also a prohibited activity under Council’s Local Laws.
“As the new mountain bike trails are nearing completion it’s even more important that we follow this rule, as having mountain bikers and walkers using the same trails as motorbikes and four-wheel drives obviously isn’t very safe.”
The acting mayor said the council understood that recreational driving was popular.
“That’s why as part of the Advance Mount Morgan Strategy we have a feasibility study planned for early next year to see which areas around Mount Morgan might be better suited to this,” he said.
“We know it’s something that a lot of people in Mount Morgan love and something people travel to Mount Morgan for.
“We want to work with the community to develop alternative areas for people to enjoy four-wheel drive and dirt bike activities safely.”