The Carron Valley MTB trails are a community project providing an extremely useful forestry single track destination for mountain bikers to the east of Glasgow, where a consortium has raised sufficient funds to extend the trails. I’ve never ridden the trails but they’re on my to do list next time I head north of the border. The reason for this post is to highlight that the issues that have put the future of the project at risk are actually a bit more complex than reports elsewhere might indicate.
The IMBA-UK website states:
Sadly, issues revolving around the project have delayed the initiative and jeopardised the funding, and have led to a meeting between the project organisers, local councils and the Scottish Executive to resolve these problems. But progress continues to be slow, and IMBA’s new Scottish coordinator Kenny Wilson has now offered IMBA’s services in an attempt to get the project back on track. IMBA reckons that the difficulties can be sorted, and we have approached the Forestry Commission with suggestions which it is hoped will lead to a successful conclusion.
Now to understand my concerns you have to appreciate that the Forestry Commision (FC) Mountain Bike Tsar and the IMBA-UK Chairman are the same person – Karl Bartlett. The committee roles section of the IMBA-UK website doesn’t explicitly state that the role of the Chairman is to “work to create new trails, and keep trails and public access open for mountain biking by encouraging responsible riding, supporting volunteer trail work and cooperating with other trail user groups, land managers and public bodies”, but given that it’s one of the organisation’s core Mission Aims it’s implied that he is responsible for facilitating all of these aims.
In 2002 Bartlett who was formerly a FC Ranger at Mabie Forest was charged with turning the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway into a mecca for mountain bikers. Since the work on the 7Stanes his responsibilities appear to have been extended to a Scotland as a whole. This has involved producing reports on various initiatives like the Carron Valley Development Project (CVDP), identifying issues and making recommendations on how trail building groups should proceed and approving permits for groups to work in FC estates.
In theory this could give IMBA-UK and excellent insight into the way the FC operates and a unique leverage mechanism to promote mountain biking and trail building and maintenance. The current situation leads to one person with two important roles that have divergent interests at times. This generates the potential for serious conflicts of interest and this appears to be exactly what has happened, leading to a farcical state of affairs as reported in September.
The question is two months on, are things getting any better?