THURSDAY, SEPT. 6: The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) has been made aware of a scheme that would convert the northern segment of Astwood Park into a motocross scrambling track for juveniles. We understand the rationale behind the scheme is to provide young people with something to do after school and weekends. However, it is inappropriate for public Parkland to be converted to such special-interest uses.

The public may not remember that Astwood Park was purchased by the Government to be a National Park after extensive research in the 1980s showed that Warwick Parish was one of the most densely populated parts of the Island, and needed open space relief.

We are aware that the conversion is being promoted as a “kiddie scrambling track” as though the smaller bikes will not be as noisy or destructive to the environment through pollution and erosion. It may be billed as such but which department of government is charged to monitor usage; to inspect and deny certain sized engines or wheelsizes or age groups from using the facility?

There are a number of problems that foresight alerts us to:

Noise: No matter what the size or power of the bikes, they will be noisy. As they are off-road bikes, they will not be bound by existing noise restrictions.

Erosion: Anyone who has attended or watched motocross and scrambling events on television has witnessed the plowing that scrambling tracks undergo from spinning, knobby-treaded tires of scrambler bikes and the absolute ruination of the scrambling terrain. Even competitive pedalbiking is destructive to the turf surface; making any semblance of parkland ground-cover vegetation impossible.

Pollution: In addition to the noise pollution inherent in motorbike scrambling activity, there is the concentrated exhaust fumes that will affect residents downwind from the site. There is also the inevitable leakage of gasoline, oil and other motor fluids.

Preservation of farmland: The proposed site for the scrambler track is a plot of arable land that has in the recent past been actively farmed to grow food. We support efforts within the government to preserve and protect arable land and trust that the resolve to safeguard this precious and diminishing resource remains focused and strong.

Traffic issues: There will need to be fencing to prevent the dual risks of spectators or bystanders entering the cycle track, and of runaway or out-of-control bikes plowing into pedestrians or off track traffic. Also, all existing roadways for access to the site are either quite narrow or a main thoroughfare, all with limited parking.

Conflicting activities: Parks and motorbike-scrambling are not compatible activities and should not be placed in close proximity.

Just not good sense: It just doesn’t make good sense to put a high-noise and environmentally damaging activity adjacent to a dense residential area. Communities need a rest from noise and bother, particularly evenings and weekends.

It doesn’t make good sense to open up a new facility for a noisy and potentially dangerous motorized bikes when one already exists at Southside in a more suitably isolated area.

It doesn’t make good sense to chip away at public open space and parkland for special interest uses to the detriment of the broader public interest.

Public deserves no surprises: As a national park, Astwood Cove has its own individual park plan. It is a well-used parkland for family picnics and gatherings and used by tourists for destination weddings The public expects that any such proposal for changing the use of public Parkland would have to go through established Planning procedures.

However, the presence of a government bulldozer/backhoe at the site has prompted several calls to BEST from the public and reminded us that increasingly, developers have resorted to proceeding with unpermitted development and only then seeking appropriate permission. We thought it important to alert members of the public before any such development was begun. The public deserves and should insist on an open and transparent process before any such conversion takes place.