Nope, it’s not a new long distance event in North Wales, it’s how Gwynedd Council (that covers places like Snowdon, Betws y Coed and Coed y Brenin and most of the Dyfi Forest) is putting its need to drop its spending from £235M to £214M by 2017, while its expected costs rise from £235M to an estimated £264M.
So much, so dull local council news. All local councils are having to do that and many (if not all) of them are doing a ‘Hey, now you try and balance our books for us’ campaign.
However, if you look at some of the proposals, along with the area that the council covers, then things selfishly start getting concerning for mountain bikers. Firstly, you might be surprised that trail access and maintenance comes under ‘Environment’ and not ‘Tourism’. And, given the recent enthusiasm about a possible shift in attitude of the central Welsh government regarding open trail access, these proposed cuts might come as a shock.
There are several proposals that need a look, specifically:
Env 13 – This is the budget for the maintenance of rights of way. But as well as the seasonal mowing and cutting back of overgrown trails, it also has the mechanism for complaints about blocked (naturally, or deliberately) rights of way. So, if the full 40% cut goes through and the farmers and landowners lock the gates to trails and let sunken lanes grow over, there’d be no one to complain to, or to enforce the re-opening of the right of way. Only Snowdon and NRW (formerly the Forestry Commission in Wales) would likely be maintained due to the number of visitors. Although, apparently 49% of visitors to the area come to walk on the beaches. There’s no mention of mountain biking.
There’s also the issue of Barmouth Bridge, which is part of the very popular Mawddach Trail. There’s a proposal to cut funding for that, which would effectively close the bridge and sever the trail.
And here’s Dilwyn Williams, Gwynedd Council’s Chief Executive to explain it all:
Can see the video? Click here to view it.
The page on the Council’s website is here:
Now, we know that mountain bikers as a group tend to be pretty apathetic about this kind of stuff, but one Welsh Rights of Way Officer has this to say: “Riders need to wise up because evidence shows the public can’t be arsed to respond leaving the council free to do what it wants. Most popular responses are from those losing libraries schools or social care who usually don’t use rights of ways much and so tend to support those cuts in favour of saving non-statutory cultural stuff while walkers horse riders and cyclists are out there getting on with it blind to the oncoming access Armageddon.”
So, what are you waiting for? We’ve already shown that enough mountain bikers care about potentially improved access to the Welsh countryside, so don’t let it be closed by the time we get there…
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