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About the project
We’re planning a world-class mountain biking destination in the heart of the Yarra Ranges.
A network of trails nestled among the surrounding mountains will bring visitors from across the world to experience Warburton’s natural beauty and relaxing village atmosphere, creating more jobs and growing the local economy.
The project is designed to appeal to riders of all skill levels from beginner to advanced, across a range of differing terrains, outlooks and environments.
Documents were accurate at time of publication. Many have been updated as a result of the EES and its findings.
The project has been in development since it was first raised in 2010 by local riders as part of Parks Victoria’s Healthy Parks Healthy People program.
Since then, Council has undertaken a feasibility study, detailed planning work, extensive impact investigations, community consultation and sought expert advice to develop the project’s Master Plan.
The project is being developed in partnership with Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and with input from the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Melbourne Water and the Upper Yarra Community Enterprise.
A number of changes have been made to the project’s design to address the findings of impact assessments and incorporate community feedback, including removing, redesigning and realigning trails to help further reduce impacts and protect important local features.
The project is funded for delivery of Stage 1. Specialist mountain bike trail design and construction firm World Trail has been appointed to finalise the trail network and construct the trails.
The Warburton Mountain Bike Destination has the potential to revitalise Warburton, encourage new business, attract visitors and tourism activity.
The project will draw new visitors to Warburton, as well as increasing the length of visitors’ stay, by offering new activity.
It is anticipated that the trails will be used by:
- Local residents and
- Residents from surrounding townships
- Visitors to the region seeking nature-based and adventure tourism opportunities
- National and international mountain bike riders
The project would enhance tourism in the area, offering family-friendly experiences that put Warburton and surrounds on the map as an international destination.
When fully developed in 2031 the project is expected to bring about 128,000 new visitors to the Yarra Ranges who will participate in 222,000 rides per year, and generate 77,000 overnight stays in the region annually.
Township planning will be conducted alongside this project to maximise opportunities and ensure supporting services and infrastructure are in place.
The project would have a direct and positive impact on the local economy. It is expected to create 159 new local jobs and generate about $31.2 million in economic spend within the region each year. This presents a significant opportunity for businesses to grow their customer base and profits.
Mountain biking also has the ability to provide physical and mental health benefits for the broader Yarra Ranges and Victorian community, enabling a stronger community connection with the environment, promoting increased volunteer and educational opportunities.
The project would create new recreational opportunities for residents and visitors of all ages and riding abilities, allowing youth in the community to learn new skills.
The Warburton Mountain Bike Destination is being developed in a significant natural and cultural environment. Council is working with Parks Victoria, Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP), Melbourne Water and Zoos Victoria to deliver the best possible result for the project and the environment.
Protecting plants and animals in the area is critical for this project. Council has established an expert panel to make sure that impacts to threatened species and vulnerable and sensitive environmental areas are minimised.
To protect the important environmental and cultural values of the region, Council will use sensitive design, effective risk management and leading-edge construction techniques to deliver the trail network.
This includes a 20-metre leeway for the trail alignment, so it can be constructed around trees and sensitive areas to preserve the environment.
The trails would give the community more access to the Yarra Ranges’ natural environment. Educational signage would be placed along the trails, giving visitors an insight to local history and culture.
As a result of the project, illegal and informal trails on public land will be reviewed or closed, leading to rehabilitation of these areas.
The Warburton Mountain Bike Destination project would be a world-class mountain biking destination centred around Warburton, about 70km north of Melbourne.
When complete, the Destination would feature 66 trails spanning across three zones on Mt Donna Buang, Mt Little Joe and Mt Tugwell.
Trails would connect with the popular Lilydale- Warburton Rail Trail and O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail.
Three “trail heads” would provide facilities for riders, including car parking, picnic areas, toilets and wash stations.
The main trail head would be located at Warburton Golf Course, at the base of Mt Donna Buang.
Shuttle buses would deliver riders to the trails on Mount Donna Buang and Mt Tugwell.
$11.3m in funding has been provided for Stage One of the project, which includes approximately 110km of trails and two head facilities.
Once complete, we will seek International Mountain Bike Association designation as a Gold-Level Ride Centre – which would make Warburton the only Gold-Level centre in Australia and one of only three outside the USA.
The project is currently in a planning approvals phase.
Yarra Ranges Council’s aim is to deliver a range of positive opportunities for the region through the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination. Protecting the area’s significant natural and cultural environment and minimising potential impacts continue to be central to the project’s development.
In May 2020, the Minister for Planning determined an EES would be required for the project. In June 2020, the Commonwealth Government determined that approval would be required under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and accredited the EES process for the related assessment.
Council has commenced preparation of the EES which will involve a range of specialist studies into the project’s potential impacts on the environment.
Community consultation from November 2020 and March/April 2021 will inform the EES preparation.
The EES will be publicly exhibited in late 2021.
In mid-2020, the Victorian Minister for Planning determined the project is to be assessed through the preparation of an Environment Effects Statement (EES) under the Environment Effects Act 1978.
The project went through the Environment Effects Statement (EES) process between 2020 to 2022 with the Ministers decision received in October 2022. Following the Environment Effects Statement (EES) process and the subsequent approval from the Minister, there are several State and Federal approval processes that need to be completed to the approval of the Minister for Planning before we can commence trail construction.
Council is fully committed to securing these approvals as quickly as possible to ensure the project can move forward, in the meantime though we’ve been making progress in other areas of the project since the announcement. We understand that the community is eagerly anticipating a start date for the trails, and we are working diligently to finalise the necessary approvals. We thank everyone for your continued support and patience throughout this process.
Council is confident that the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination Project will secure the required approvals and that we’ll be able to schedule a commencement date for trail construction soon.
Have a look at what’s been happening with the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination project.
Frequently asked questions
Quick facts and figures
- Network length: 177km
- Number of trails: 61
- Jobs created (by 2031): 229
- Annual visitors (by 2031): 128,000, participating in 222,000 rides.
- Regional spend (by 2031): $48 million
- Overnight visitors (by 2031): 77,000
- 4 trail heads: Warburton Golf Club, Mt Donna Buang, Mount Tugwell, Wesburn Park
- 2 major bridges
- 22 small bridges to protect waterways
- 47 sections of boardwalk
- Typical trail width: 600mm-900mm
- 66 % cross country; 34 % gravity trails
- Proposed new MTB trails: 164.7km (88%)
- Existing MTB trails to be merged into network: 14.9km (8%)
- Existing vehicle track merged into network: 7km (4%)
- 63% trails on valley south side; 37% on valley’s north.
We understand that the community is eagerly anticipating a start date for the trails, and we are working diligently to finalise the necessary approvals. We thank everyone for your continued support and patience throughout this process. Council is confident that the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination Project will secure the required approvals and that we’ll be able to schedule a commencement date for trail construction soon.
World Trail has been appointed as the trail construction company and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in creating world class and environmentally sensitive mountain bike trails.
Stage 1 of the project is fully funded at $11.3 million.
Yarra Ranges Council has committed $2.7 million and received $300k from the Warburton and Yarra Junction Community Bank, $3 million
from the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund, $2.3 million from the Regional Growth Fund and $3 million from the State Government’s Growing Suburbs Fund.
The project is proposed to be delivered in two stages. Stage 1 is funded to deliver approximately 110km of trails and supporting infrastructure.
Before construction of a trail section commences, a walk through is conducted with the trail builders, Council representatives and appropriate technical experts to ensure important values are protected during construction. This pre-start check will identify and mark any sensitive areas to avoid and determine the final alignment and construction methodologies to be used.
Innovative and low-impact construction methods, such as hand tools and small machinery, are typically used to protect the surrounding natural environment. Considerable effort goes into avoiding significant plants and animals during construction. Typically, no large tress are removed as the trails wind their way through the bush.
Small teams of three to four professional trail builders equipped with hand tools and a mini-excavator work their way along the trails, generally starting at a road or access point. The Warburton Mountain Bike Destination project will likely be delivered by up to eight teams, working in different locations around the network, over a period of about 18 months.
Check out this video from our trail builders to see an example of how trails are built.
The mountain bike trails would generally be between 600mm and 900mm wide and naturally surfaced.
In order to ensure erosion is reduced and maintenance is minimised, sections of the trail network would have hardened surfaces such as gravel and rock.
No walking tracks are to be closed, and no existing walking tracks are to be converted for mountain bike use.
The master plan aims to ensure that both walking trails and proposed mountain bike tracks co-exist respectfully.
The trails would be free to use.
The trails will be designated for mountain bike use only during normal operation. The network does provide an exciting opportunity for hosting trail running, walking and similar events and these will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The trail network has been designed to appeal to riders of all skill levels from beginner to advanced, across a range of differing terrains, outlooks and environments.
The trail network has been designed as a ride-in, ride-out experience from Warburton and Wesburn, but shuttle bus operations are also proposed to deliver riders and their bikes to the trail heads Mount Tugwell summit and trails on Mt Donna Buang. This helps make the trails more accessible for a wider range of users – from beginners to experienced riders.
Shuttle buses with trailers for bikes would operate daily and could accommodate hundreds of riders per day. Proposed shuttle bus routes use Warburton Highway, Donna Buang Road, Old Warburton Road, Edwardstown Road, Mt Bride Road.
Shuttle bus services would generate commercial opportunities and local jobs.
The project team and land managers would work together to manage the impacts of shuttles and are exploring options including, but not limited to:
- Licencing of shuttle operators to enable control of operations including time of day, route, number of shuttles, quality of service.
- Having a designated shuttle drop off point that only licensed, commercial shuttle operators have access to.
- Limiting access to shuttle roads so that only commercial shuttles can access designated points in the network.
- Parking restrictions in certain areas to reduce community impact.
During the initial phases of operation, Yarra Ranges Council would likely manage maintenance and operations.
Council is continuing to investigate alternate operating models including the establishment of an Incorporated Association.
Regular inspections would identify any problems or trail changes that need to be rectified. This will ensure the network provides a superior riding experience during all seasons. This work is expected to be carried out by up to four full-time staff members.
Proactive maintenance will include:
- Weed control
- Trail edge mowing/cutting
- Trail sweeping
- Drainage works
- Litter removal
Regular patrols would be conducted to identify, close down and rehabilitate any illegal trails created.
The project would work closely with emergency services to develop an Emergency Management Plan that would investigate options to keep riders safe and respond to emergency incidents quickly.
When complete, the Destination would feature 61 trails spanning 177km. Three trail heads are planned as part of the project where riders can be picked up or dropped off by shuttle bus services, park and use bathroom and bike wash facilities.
- Main Trail Head at Warburton Golf Course
- Mount Tugwell summit trail head
- Wesburn Park trail head.
Unless agreed to by the landowner, no trails will go on private land. Impacts to private land are discussed directly with the landowner on a case-by-case basis.
Yarra Ranges Council is negotiating with the Golf Club to secure space to develop the trail head and a trail passing through the golf course. Council is working with the club to minimise impacts to golfers and reach an agreement that will benefit both parties.
Access to the trail network would be provided at Wesburn Park. Car park improvements and visitor facility upgrades would be undertaken as part of this project.
A draft Traffic Impact Assessment was prepared based on the expected number of visitors to the network. This assessed the existing capacity of the road network and found that there is sufficient capacity across the road network to accommodate forecast growth in traffic. Traffic increases are expected to be low and would not be expected to cause significant impacts.
The project’s EES includes an assessment of traffic impacts and provides recommendations to mitigate any potential impacts.
Environment and heritage
Protecting the area’s significant natural and cultural environment and minimising potential impacts is central to the project’s development. Council has undertaken a comprehensive and transparent planning, consultation and approvals process for the project, through an Environment Effects Statement (EES).
An EES is a well-established assessment process that provides a comprehensive framework for assessing the environment effects of major projects in Victoria. The EES process is managed by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) on behalf of the Minister for Planning. Information about the process is available at the DELWP website.
The Minister for Planning determined an EES is required for the project. The Commonwealth Government determined that approval would be required under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and accredited the EES process for the related assessment.
The trails will provide new opportunities to engage with the natural environment, learn about it and develop a greater appreciation for it. Education and interpretation signage along the trails will support cultural and environmental awareness.
It will be a great resource for the delivery of school -based outdoor education programs. Yarra Ranges Council is working with the education sector to ensure educational needs are met.
There is known habitat for Leadbeater’s possum within the project area that has the potential to be impacted.
The conservation and protection of Leadbeater’s Possum is critical for this project and a fundamental consideration in project planning.
Trail alignments have been designed to minimise impacts to large old trees which may provide critical habitat for this species.
Through previous studies, engagement with species experts and engagement with stakeholders, the project has developed a range of practices to minimise impacts on Leadbeater’s Possum.
The Warburton Mountain Bike Destination is set in a unique and sensitive environment which is highly valued for its biodiversity and beauty. Protecting the area’s natural and cultural environment and minimising potential impacts is central to the project’s development.
As the project has been developed, a number of changes have been made to its design to address the findings of impact assessments and incorporate community feedback, including removing, redesigning and realigning trails to help further reduce impacts and protect important local features. The EES process helped further understand risks to values and develop strategies to avoid or minimise potential impacts.
The EES included assessment of potential effects on native vegetation including large old trees, ecological communities and fauna and flora species listed under relevant Commonwealth and State environmental protection legislation.
The project has been designed to avoid impacting on heritage sites. There are five heritage places in or near the project area, with the trails intersecting two of these places. Heritage specialists have been engaged to advise on design and construction methods, to ensure these areas are protected. Cultural and historic heritage has been assessed as part of the project EES.
Surveying has been undertaken to confirm the boundary of the cemetery and ensure the proposed trails do not fall within this.
When complete, it is estimated the project will attract 128,000 visitors to Warburton each year, participating in 222,000 rides.
The aim of the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination is to deliver a range of positive opportunities for the region, by facilitating tourism and associated economic and jobs growth and enhancing the health and wellbeing of the community.
Anticipated benefits include:
- The revitalisation of Warburton, encouraging new business, attracting visitors and boosting local tourism
- Health and wellbeing benefits
- New recreational opportunities for residents and visitors of all ages
- Increased tourism in the area, offering family-friendly experiences that leverage the destination and put Warburton on the map.
- Increased economic activity and job opportunities.
When fully developed in 2031, the project would create economic spend of $31.2m per year, create 159 jobs and attract 128,000 visitors to the region. Other potential benefits include improved health and wellbeing, new recreation opportunities and a stronger community connection with, and appreciation for, the natural environment.
The trail network is expected to generate 77,000 overnight stays. Travelling riders often spend four to five days at a large mountain bike destination, extending Warburton’s weekend visitor market into the weekdays and benefiting local businesses including accommodation, hospitality, retail and transport operators.
Though most riders will stay in accommodation close to the trail network, they will distribute spending across the region, often taking breaks from riding for day trips to regional attractions.
Modelling of the project’s economic benefits has taken account of the ongoing reduction in international tourism due to COVID-19.
Once the trails are operating, the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination is forecast to inject $48 million to the local economy.
Get in touch
Want to know more about the project, or want to leave some feedback? We’d love to hear from you!
Contact one of our project partners
Yarra Ranges Shire Council
P.O. Box 105, Anderson Street
Lilydale, VIC 3140
T : 1300 368 333