‘Enough is enough’: Residents tired of motorbikes destroying wetlands at Len Howard Conservation Park

A group of Erskine residents have expressed their frustration at motorcyclists tearing up the wetlands of Len Howard Conservation Park.

Geoff Hart-Davies, whose back fence overlooks the land being terrorised by off-road trail bikes, is leading the group of residents on their quest for action.

Mr Hart-Davies said the problem has been ongoing for years, but seems to have gotten worse recently.

“These little toe rags just come ripping through here,” he said.

“They’re unlicensed, unregistered and full of attitude.

“Enough is enough – everyone knows they are doing this but it’s time we put the word out there because otherwise nothing is going to happen.”

They’re unlicensed, unregistered and full of attitude.

Erskine resident Geoff Hart-Davies

Joining him in the fight to protect the wetlands and stop the illegal activity in their backyard is fellow resident Paul Jackson.

Mr Jackson said he’s worried about public safety and the conservation of the immediate environment.

They roar along the path, through the people and families picnicing and kids playing cricket and then through the wetlands,” Mr Jackson said.

“It’s one of the few areas of remnant vegetation – it has really important shrubs, plants and a range of wildflowers.

“It’s all fair game for the trail bike riders, they just ride over the whole lot.

“They are just oblivious and uncaring of anybody or anything else that might be in the area.”

Read more: 

Mr Jackson said the motorcyclists also posed a dangerous threat to the wildlife in the park.

“There’s about 15,000 birds in the area of 81 species and about 20 of those are migratory, travelling over 4000 kilometres to feed and breed,” he said.

“The bikes unsettle the environment – they scare off the birds, they force the breeding pairs to leave their nests.

“There’s a large mob of kangaroos in there that are suffering from stress myopathy… when they get stressed, they get a build up of lactic acid in their system and it leads to a breakdown of the cells and muscle tissue, causing it to die a very painful death.

“I don’t know what the solution is but raising public awareness is a good start.”

Environmental Impact

The Len Howard Conservation Park is a narrow strip of land managed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) that borders land managed by the City of Mandurah.

Photo: Google Images.

Photo: Google Images.

A DBCA spokesperson said they were aware of the issue and were working closely with City of Mandurah rangers and the Mandurah Police to address the use of unregistered trail bikes in the area.

“DBCA, along with local governments in the Peel Region, have been working on a Peel Region Trails Strategy dealing with both sanctioned and unsanctioned use of trails across all land management tenures,” they said.

“This process aims to provide areas for different types of users such as mountain bike riders, horse riders, walkers, kayakers and trail bike riders to legally conduct their activity and protect sensitive areas.

“Unauthorised trail bike riding in sensitive areas can result in a loss of native vegetation when new trails are created and erosion on existing walk trails.

“The Len Howard area is an important migratory bird habitat and noise generated from illegal trail bikes can deter birds from feeding and breeding.”

The Len Howard area is an important migratory bird habitat and noise generated from illegal trail bikes can deter birds from feeding and breeding.

Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions spokesperson

Echoing the Department’s comments was Peel-Harvey Catchment Council chief executive officer Jane O’Malley.

“We have been involved in many projects, in conjunction with DBCA and others, to implement effective access control to try to deter trail bikes and 4WD’s from damaging our fragile natural environment,” Ms O’Malley said.

“They can cause significant damage, which is why we have made such an investment in trying to educate and make people aware, and to stop it from happening.

“The soil on their tyres can spread disease such as dieback (phytophora) as well as spreading weeds seeds, they trample native plants and compact the soil so that new plants can’t grow. The disturbance to birds, mammals and reptiles can be significant, impacting on their feeding, resting and breeding.”

Illegal activity

City of Mandurah chief executive officer Mark Newman said the city receives regular complaints in relation to off-road motorbikes and vehicles accessing public parks and reserves.

“This is a challenging ongoing issue as off-road motorbikes are often not registered which makes it difficult to identify offenders,” he said.

“Rangers conduct random patrols of reported areas and work closely with police and if offenders are caught, their vehicles can be seized and impounded.

“The City also communicates with our local communities to encourage people to report any illegal motorbike or off-road vehicle activity and provide information on the properties where offender’s vehicles are stored.”

Mandurah police officer in charge Darren Hart said the issue of unregistered bikes was not confined to Erskine but in fact a problem all across the Peel region.

“Unfortunately the issue of unregistered or off-road bike use is common in many cities with large bushland or undeveloped areas, and is a problem for several suburbs around Mandurah,” he said.

Senior Sergeant Hart said they were working closely with local council rangers to address the issue but that it was “difficult to police”.

He also added that they had seized seven off-road bikes in the Peel region since July 2018.

“If an unlicensed bike is ridden on the road, the rider can face charges of operating an unlicensed vehicle,” he said.

“In some cases a court will make an order for the destruction of the bike so it can prove very costly for the owner.

“The other issue for people to consider before taking a bike out on the road is that they are uninsured and they are often more difficult for other road users to see. This puts these riders at a significant risk of serious injury and potentially death.”

Anyone with information about off-road bikes in the Len Howard Conservation Park, or anywhere around the Peel region, are asked to report them to the City of Mandurah rangers by calling 9550 3777.