Save Sparrow!

Hey guys - one of the better places to ride MTB in Canberra is about to go under the chopping block. This place is known Australia wide and it is one of the MTB highlights of this region. To see it disappear would be a real shame.

[i]"Dear fellow mountain bike nuts and Sparrow Hill fans.
The good news is always that your back tyre hasn’t gone flat overnight after your last ride. The bad news is that time is nearly up for Sparrow.

We’ve always dreaded the thought that one day the harvesting machines will thunder into Kowen Forest and clear-fell our trees.
That’s what happens in a commercial pine forest, and that time is almost upon us.
But what if the ACT Government were to declare Sparrow Hill a recreational area? The trees that make the Sparrow tracks what they are to us could be saved.

I have written to the MLA for Molonglo, Shane Rattenbury, who is also ACT Minister for Sports and Recreation, asking for his help to persuade the ACT Government to redesignate Sparrow Hill recreational. His office says they are investigating.
A senior Forestry officer, acting in good faith within the constraints of the land manager’s mandate, has offered to work with us to save the tracks. He will still take the trees, but has offered mechanical help to re-expose the tracks as the massive debris of harvesting is cleared up. And he will direct the harvesters to avoid damaging the tracks as far as possible.

Having built half of Sparrow’s 50km of tracks, I am very aware of the practical difficulties of succeeding in this task.
Notwithstanding the damage I would expect, if the tracks were recovered we would be left with bare hills exposed to freezing winter winds, rain, strong, hot summer winds, dust and broiling sun.

The intended replanting of the forest around the tracks would not see usable shade for 10 to 15 years. One can see how little shade there is at Stromlo after eight or nine years.

Hopefully, our representatives in government won’t fail to acknowledge that the community itself has created a world-class mountain biking facility that many municipalities would give a great deal to have. And without touching the public coffers.
We are the envy of visitors from far afield, and the website is getting hits from around the world.
Every mountain biker can do something to help save Sparrow Hill.

Please let Mr Rattenbury know your feelings about Sparrow and how you would like to see its future. His email address is

When’s it going under ? Will have to get down there to ride ASAP.

Geezus… Was out there today, rode sidewinder (i think) that has been cleared and man, its rough as guts.
I do wonder what the options are though? Gov pays forester value of all standing timber to keep it there? Buys land in addition?

Just got this email back.

Dear Liam

Thank you for your email regarding mountain biking activities at Kowen Forest and your concerns about the future harvesting of the forest.

I share your enthusiasm for the variety of mountain biking venues available in the ACT. I understand that your concern is the loss of significant sections of hand built mountain bike trails when harvesting machinery comes through an area. I can advise that TAMS does not plan to undertake any clear-fell works in any of the Sparrow Hill compartments at least for the next three years, as other older trees in Kowen Forest are prioritised for harvesting.

I have recently been on a ride through the area with some of the Kowalksi Brothers, having a firsthand look at the trails, hearing about how much volunteer effort goes in to the site, and getting an understanding of the impact of harvesting. Further to that, an adviser from my office and TAMS officials attended a meeting at Kowen Forest on Monday 1 December 2014 with representatives from a number of groups that develop and use the mountain bike trails in Kowen Forest and Sparrow Hill. It is intended that a pilot will be undertaken in Kowen Forest over the coming months with the involvement of mountain bike user groups into harvesting methods that preserve as much as possible the mountain bike trails.

Results of this trial will be able to be applied to other areas, including Sparrow Hill. Given there are no immediate plans for harvesting within Sparrow Hill, there will be adequate time for consultation and planning.

You may be aware of the approach being applied at the Majura Pines Recreation area which is at a similar stage in the forest management cycle to Sparrow Hill. A Concept Master Plan 2014 has been developed and is available for you to view at Majura Pines recreation area - Territory and Municipal Services. After extensive community consultation the Majura plan outlined a shared vision to return that area to being a well used informal recreational venue while maintaining it as a working forest.

Majura’s forest operations are anticipated to involve harvesting and replanting in three phases with around four years between each operation. This is a significant alteration to a forest harvesting operation concerned solely with financial return. Revenue loss from less efficient forest operations is offset by increased benefits from recreation.

The ACT Parks and Conservation Service’s foresters are committed to working with all interested parties to maintain both the recreation and timber values in all of our working forests, including Sparrow Hill.

Thank you for raising this matter with me. I hope that the information provided is of assistance.

Yours sincerely

Shane Rattenbury MLA
Minister for Territory and Municipal Services; Sport and Recreation;
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs; and Corrective Services.
ACT Greens Member for Molonglo
t: 6205 0005 | f: 6205 0007
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter



We are still going to harvest the forest in stages when the trees are fully developed - but we will be working with trail builders at that time to try and minimise the damage to the trails.