Dempster Head rehabilitation begins

Dempster debate: Dempster Head has been the centre of several temporary access bans over the years, with damage from unauthorised activity prompting calls for greater protections for the site. Photo: Esperance Express.
Dempster debate: Dempster Head has been the centre of several temporary access bans over the years, with damage from unauthorised activity prompting calls for greater protections for the site. Photo: Esperance Express.

The Shire of Esperance has begun rehabilitating damaged areas and closing unauthorised tracks on Dempster Head reserve, following calls from the Local Environmental Action Forum.

The coastal reserve has been the centre of several temporary access bans in the last three years, with damage from unauthorised activity prompting calls for greater protections and a new management plan for the site.

LEAF Esperance's Jan Archer presented photographic evidence of makeshift trails and damaged vegetation to the Shire of Esperance council on Tuesday, June 25, calling for the rehabilitation of the area.

Mrs Archer said the issue needed to be addressed urgently and, to assist the Shire of Esperance with an investigation, the action group offered $3,000 in funding.

"We really believe that this needs attention now, prior to any further rainfall," Mrs Archer said.

Shire of Esperance chief executive officer Matthew Scott declined the funding offer but vowed to investigate the unauthorised activity at Dempster Head.

It is understood shire environmental officers and the 'Work for the Dole' team have since been rehabilitating the damaged areas, removing unauthorised earthworks and structures installed for mountain biking.

Unauthorised walking tracks have also been closed and access to areas of the reserve that were impacted by fire last year have been managed.

Mr Scott confirmed that the works had been undertaken at a small cost to the shire and within the current budget, with the majority of costs covered by the Work for the Dole Program.

"Works have been completed with an attempt to manage erosion and retain the environmental values by restricting access and trying to limit further erosion," Mr Scott said.

The new Draft Dempster Head Management Plan, undertaken by South Coast Natural Resources Management, found the use of already damaged areas would cause further degradation of vegetation, and increase the rise of erosion.

It also found downhill riding was unlikely to be compatible with having walkers on trails.

The Shire received 34 responses during public consultation on the draft plan, 13 of which supported the continuation of mountain bike riding at Dempster Head.

In a bid to reach a compromise, the council voted unanimously to consider a budget bid for a mountain bike site selection study, including Dempster Head, in June 2018.

Mr Scott said The Esperance Mountain Bike Site Investigation scope was now almost complete, with further consultation being undertaken with the City of Albany, which has completed a similar project.

It is understood that key members of the local mountain bike community will be consulted on the investigation, including those who were consulted as part of the management planning process for Dempster Head.