Mountain bikers are being warned that they are risking serious injury by ignoring signs urging them to stay clear of trail sections while forestry operations are taking place.
Some bikers are even removing tape and barriers from trails leading into areas where forestry machines are working and trees are being felled – endangering not only themselves but others following behind them who may be unaware of the danger.
An increasing number of incidents involving mountain bikers entering prohibited harvesting areas in Welsh Government woodlands in the Afan Valley have been recorded over the past few months.
The area is home to some of Wales’s most popular trails – including the Whites Level, Wall and Skyline – and Forestry Commission Wales, which manages the woodlands, fears that it could be only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt.
Wales Harvesting Team Leader Darroch Lyon said, “I am increasingly concerned for mountain bikers’ safety if this casual disregard for trail diversions and closures by a selfish and irresponsible minority continues.”
The hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails designed and built in Wales’s woodlands are among the best in the world and attract thousands of people, who are the lifeblood for many rural economies.
But this environment is also a working forest, where a multi-million pound industry exists side by side with outstanding recreation facilities.
In order to manage these different interests so that everyone can use the forests safely, FC Wales sometimes has to exclude the public from active operational areas.
When this happens, diversions are put in place so that mountain bikers can still enjoy the forest despite the forestry operations.
FC Wales Mountain Bike Ranger Howard Sims said, “I invest a significant amount of time and effort in planning, establishing and checking and maintaining diversions and closures.
“All the time and resources I spend replacing damaged signs, barriers and tape is time I am not spending on maintaining the open sections of trails so that everybody can enjoy them.”
The forestry industry is a major source of employment in South Wales and these foolhardy actions cause unnecessary and costly delays, which is also becoming a major problem for these firms.
FC Wales Mountain Bike Manager David M Williams said, “If this selfish minority of mountain bikers continue with their irresponsible behaviour, it will result in the closure of entire trails for the duration of the necessary works.
“This is not something we would enter into lightly but if this wilful disregard for their own safety and the safety of others continues, we will have no other option.”
For the latest updates on temporary trail closures, visit the Forestry Commission Wales website at www.forestry.gov.uk/recreatio
Caption: Some mountain bikers are ignoring hazard signs close to harvesting sites.
Media enquiries: Forestry Commission Wales press officer Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email email@example.com