21 December 2023

Helensburgh bike track to remain closed over summer due to asbestos risk

| Zoe Cartwright
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The fenced-off Helensburgh Mountain Bike Track.

Fences will remain at Helensburgh Mountain Bike Track until it is cleared of any asbestos threat. Photo: Graeme Burrill.

Any hopes of the Helensburgh Mountain Bike Park reopening over the summer holidays have been dashed as more asbestos has been found on site.

The park was closed to the public in May when material containing asbestos was found in soil imported to the site and used to construct the park’s dirt tracks.

Wollongong City Council has committed to removing and safely disposing of the contaminated soil from the site.

A council spokesperson said they worked with representatives of the Helensburgh Off-Road Cycle Club (HORCC) on how to manage the bike park.

The council has undertaken weekly site inspections, developed a scope of work to remediate the site and worked through a notification process with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

READ ALSO Helensburgh bike park still closed after asbestos scare, but it will get back on track

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery AM said the affected area is far more significant than initially thought, as testing has identified material across the site.

“I want to make it very clear council is not responsible for the procurement or placement of this material,” he said.

“However, it needs to be sorted out, and there is no quick fix for issues like this.

“This is a park that is enjoyed by residents in the Helensburgh community and surrounding areas, and to date more than 70 asbestos fragments have been found on the surface at various parts of the site.

“These have continued to be found during regular site inspections. This has added to the challenge as each new find means we need to, again, review risk levels.”

Non-friable asbestos, when left undisturbed in the ground, is relatively low health risk, but when it is exposed and ridden over on push bikes, the risk of disturbing the asbestos fragments increases significantly.

The council must remove all the mountain bike tracks constructed after 2017 from imported red clay material to meet the expectations and requirements of the EPA.

READ ALSO Council calls for community feedback on next section of Grand Pacific Walk

“This will be an expensive exercise as it’s a large site with a significant number of trails and a large volume of affected material,” Wollongong City Council General Manager Greg Doyle said.

“We will need to work through a tender process to have this work completed by a licenced provider who has the experience to manage an extensive clean-up of this nature, as all the soil to be removed will be classified as hazardous waste and will be disposed of accordingly.

“This means the park will remain closed over summer to manage public safety.

“I know this closure will be disappointing to some riders in the community who love to ride these dirt tracks.

“It’s not a decision we make lightly, and it’s one that is informed by the number of asbestos fragments that continue to be found at this site.”

Once the soil is removed, a clearance certificate from an independent asbestos assessor will be required before the site can be reopened to the public.

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