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urban planning

Molonglo River Reserve cycling summary

The Molonglo River Reserve is a very long reserve that separates the north and south sections of the Molonglo Valley development.

On 16 September 2008, the ACT and Commonwealth Governments commenced a strategic assessment for development areas in Molonglo Valley under Part 10 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act). The long process resulted, eventually, in the Molonglo River Reserve: Reserve Management Plan 2019 (26 July 2019) and lies under the responsibility of the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD).

Molonglo Valley development will give the valley character but is problematic from an urban development perspective. The Molonglo River Reserve: Reserve Management Plan 2019 is very long document and there is much to read and know about active travel. My purpose here in this document is to summary, discuss and quote interesting things relevant to cycling and active travel.

THE RED SECTIONS ARE HEAVILY DEGRADED AND NOW PLANNED FOR RECREATION

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RECENT CYCLING HISTORY

8.2.2 Recent recreational history in the area

In the rural section, recreation opportunities in the recent past have been managed through the 2001 Lower Molonglo River Corridor Management Plan. Recreation was deliberately kept low key in order to provide a contrast to parks in suburban Canberra. Access was only available on foot or bike and horse riding allowed only on the sewer management road on the north side. Apart from the management tracks there was little additional track building and very little interpretation provided. Walking access from Kama to the management track was added recently. Swimming in the river was not permitted, however fishing (within legal limits) and non-powered boating were permitted.

In the urban section, recreation access in the past was provided largely through forest management policies which, since 1967, had permitted use of forest management tracks for recreation. The pine plantations on both sides of the river and across to Mt Stromlo were widely used and enjoyed by walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders who came from suburbs across Canberra for the extended recreation opportunities (see Chapter 9). Stromlo Forest Park has been designed to partly substitute for these recreation opportunities that were lost, first in the fires, and then in the urban development of the valley. The Molonglo River corridor was part of the area formerly used for recreation and this has shaped the expectations of those users about its recreation use in the future.

RECREATIONAL CYCLING

8.2.4 Recreation activities

A range of recreation activities for a range of users will be allowed within the reserve. These include but are not limited to:

  1. Walking opportunities suited to a range of ages and physical abilities will be provided for in the reserve. Dog walking is a popular recreational activity in Canberra and this activity will be permitted in the reserve except for in Kama.
  2. Picnic facilities for visitors to the reserve will generally be located in the special purposes reserves however other locations outside these areas may be considered where it can be demonstrated that there will be no detrimental impacts on the conservation values of the reserve.
  3. Cycling opportunities from casual bike rides to long, challenging rides will be provided for on the existing management tracks. Commuter cyclists, who like fast paved surfaces and moderate grades will be provided for by trunk paths outside reserve boundaries.
  4. Horse riding has a long history in the area. Horses will be permitted on certain tracks including the connections to the Arboretum, Stromlo Forest Park, the Yarralumla Equestrian Centre and the Bicentennial National Trail. There are several agistment centres and riding schools located in the region.
  5. Linkages to longer trails for walking, cycling and horse riding are provided for within the reserve. The Canberra Centenary Trail (CCT), a 145 kilometre self-guided trail for walkers and cyclists that loops around Canberra passes through the reserve area. The Bicentennial National Trail (BNT), … also passes through the reserve and caters for equestrians, walkers and cyclists.

8.4.2 Trail density, route design and recreation infrastructure

The long, narrow, sloping nature of the reserve means that there are few bridges over the river, so each side of the river corridor functions independently for local scale recreation. Longer routes that can loop the river will be created over time as new river crossings are added but there may be a demand for shorter looped walks within each side of the river corridor. In the urban section, the corridor on each side of the river is usually only between 200 and 400 metres wide, sloping, and with limited opportunities for finding good routes. In addition, trail building along slopes requires considerable cut and fill. A flat trail one metre wide running along a steeper slope in the reserve would require disturbing the land for a width of up to five metres. Impacts of cutting and filling include degrading the soil surface condition, encouraging weeds, and ecological fragmentation. Continuous braided trails that separate different users are generally not feasible in these circumstances, nor desirable when close to each other for their impact on fragmenting both ecological processes and the naturalistic setting. Therefore route design is to take into account slope and the impact of ground disturbance, and, for similar reasons, recreation infrastructure beyond trail building in the nature reserve will be minimal.

page 94

8.4.3 Separation of activities between nature reserve and special purpose reserve areas

Recreation in the nature reserve areas will be guided to low intensity uses and higher intensity uses provided for in the special purpose reserves. Higher intensity walkers, runners and bike riders will be guided to the special purpose reserves and other locations nearby, like Stromlo Forest Park and the Arboretum.

8.4.4 Separation of user groups and mix of trail types

Separation of users, or giving them track options, will be possible in some areas of the reserve through a combination of utilising the existing management tracks, the trunk path running along the urban edge and new purpose designed trails.

The characteristics of each type of route that will differentiate in part between users are:

  1. The trunk path will be located outside the reserve boundary … (Ed. And therefore will not be part of the reserve or the responsibility of the EPSDD).
  2. The existing management tracks, which are unsealed roads, can generally be used by walkers and equestrians. An activities declaration will detail which tracks equestrians are permitted to use. Existing arrangements for them to use the management tracks in the rural section of the reserve will remain. Equestrians will be able to cross the river at the existing crossing just below Scrivener Dam, Southwells Crossing and a crossing near where Deep Creek enters the river. A management track will be provided in the Kama buffer which will be able to be used by equestrians.
  3. Where the land form is suitable, new trails will be developed within the reserve that are designed for walkers to access viewing points and the river.

From Table 8.2: Permitted recreation activities and their conditions, page 91

Cycling (including mountain bike riding) – Permitted on cycling, multi-use paths and management tracks only.

Figure 1: LEGEND
Figure 2: MAP OF TRACKS AND TRAIL ROUTS, page 97

9.2 Infrastructure

The construction, maintenance and access requirements that could impact on the ecological values of the reserve are also outlined in Table 9.1. Where these developments are not already addressed by the NES Plan or a decision made under the Planning and Development Act 2007, further approvals will be required that include the need for them to be considered against the requirements of the plan.

The importance of location and design of infrastructure proposals to the scenic values of the reserve and guidance for design that enhances and protects natural scenery is detailed in Chapter 5. Approval to construct such infrastructure is governed by ACT legislation, including the requirement for assessment and mitigation of environmental impact. As far as possible, structures are better located outside the reserve except where it can be clearly demonstrated that no feasible alternatives are available.

4 low level crossing and 3 high level bridges exist or are expected.

That is all.

From Table 9.1 Infrastructure in the reserve – present and anticipated, page 100

Low level river crossings (4)

These consist of a public road bridge (Coppins Crossing), a service bridge (Southwells Crossing), the MVIS bridge (Clos Crossing), and a ford used by walkers and horse riders near Equestrian Park.

Maintained by ACT Government and Icon Water (Clos Crossing). Road access is required for maintenance.

Page 101

Management tracks

Management tracks serving the infrastructure, as noted above, as well as others that served the former pine plantations and other management requirements (e.g. fire protection).

Maintained by ACT Government. Used by utility managers, reserve managers, fire operations and recreation users.

A high level bridge (Butters Bridge)

Downstream of Coppins Crossing. Carries the sewer line above to the MVIS and also designed to serve as a pedestrian and cyclist crossing.

Bridge maintained by ACT Government and sewer maintained by Icon Water. Maintenance access required for the bridge (TCCS) and sewer (Icon Water).

At bridge level, access will be along the pedestrian trail but occasional vehicle access will be required below for pier maintenance.

Infrastructure planned or likely to be required to complete the development of Molonglo

A bridge for John Gorton Drive.

Location over the Molonglo River in the Coppins Crossing area. This will be a significant construction project with potential impact on the reserve in the Coppins Crossing area. There will be ground and river disturbance during construction. Multiple services are likely to be carried with the bridge. Access below the bridge will be required for maintenance.

An East-West Arterial bridge.

Location in the Bulga Crossing area. This will be a significant construction project with potential impact on the reserve. There will be ground and river disturbance during construction. Multiple services are likely to be carried with the bridge. Access below the bridge will be required for maintenance.

9.2.1 Management considerations

The main issue during construction is the disturbance of vegetation and soil, not only of the footprint of the structure itself but of usually a much larger area to accommodate the workings of machinery and other temporary support functions like parking, offices, materials and equipment storage and soil stockpiles. Waterways may also be disturbed e.g. in bridge building. Potential impacts of these disturbances include erosion, sediment and contaminant movement away from the site and potentially into waterways, loss of soil structure, the introduction of weeds and alterations to the local hydrology. Many of the soils of the reserve have a very dispersible A2 horizon (subsoil). As long as the surface A1 horizon (surface soil) remains intact, the A2 horizon is protected. Piercing or removing the A1 horizon on slopes allows surface flows to rapidly disperse the soil beneath leading to rapid channelling erosion which is difficult to subsequently stabilise. Where the construction work involved removing the A1 or the A1 and some A2 layer, they must be removed separately and replaced in the original pattern.

Rehabilitation works after construction is completed are to maintain or improve on the vegetation and habitat that was there previously, in accordance with reserve objectives.

A major mitigating action is to avoid or minimise the amount of disturbance that needs to occur in the first place. …  Similarly the reserve cannot be used for temporary storage of materials, site sheds or equipment or to facilitate earthworks and construction access for works within the urban area.

Disturbance to wildlife may be an issue in the reserve, especially where large construction works over long periods of time occur near or over the river. The riparian vegetation is an important corridor for birds and loss of cover over a distance may preclude smaller birds from using this route. This needs to be addressed in environmental approvals for the work.

Management tracks in the reserve need to be maintained at a good standard as they will become more heavily used with increasing management, recreational and infrastructure construction and maintenance demand. …  Access will be required for ongoing maintenance of infrastructure and must be on existing management tracks only.

Any development in the reserve that requires approval under the Planning and Development Act 2007 would be assessed against the requirements of the Territory Plan and other relevant legislation, including the Heritage Act 2004 and the Environmental Protection Act 1997. In addition, the NES Plan requires that a development within the urban section needs to have a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP).

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