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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 May, 2004, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
Mountain bike trails cash worries
Mountain biker
Mountain biking is worth millions to the Welsh economy
Tourist operators are worried Wales could lose its attraction for mountain bikers over cash concerns.

The Forestry Commission does not have the money needed to maintain trails.

If standards are allowed to slip, there are fears that visitors will stop coming to the region.

However, Trefor Owen from Forestry Commission Wales said it would be "suicidal" to let the trails deteriorate.

It's imperative that they re-invest and maintain what they've got
Sion Parry, Betws Bikes

Mountain biking is becoming an increasingly popular sport in Wales, bringing millions of pounds to the economy each year.

Gwydyr Forest above Betws-y-Coed in the Conwy Valley has been open as a mountain bike trail for 18 months.

"Last year we got just over 25,000 people and this year the figures are looking even better so we would hope for up to 30,000," said forest manager Kim Burnham.

"The old trails were old forest roads designed for timber extraction, now it's specifically designed to make a very good mountain bike route.

"It's a single track, it's got tight bends up and down and it just meets the requirements of the mountain bikers."

David Howells from Wrexham regularly travels to Betws-y-Coed with his mountain bike.

"They're put together very well, they've got some very tricky technical actions and the tracks are split up just right so you've got just the right amount of climbing," he said.

Money

"The trails seem to flow very well and feel better than trails that haven't been touched."

However, locals are concerned that if the trails are not maintained people like Mr Howells will stay away.

Sion Parry from Bikes Betws who has been hiring mountain bikes since the 1980s wants to ensure that the Forestry Commission keep maintaining the Gwydyr Forest trail.

"It's imperative that they re-invest and maintain what they've got," he said.

"I do hear people coming here at the weekend and starting to complain about tracks deteriorating badly.

"If the rumours are true [about money] then I've no doubt that by this time next year the track will have deteriorated."

However, Trefor Owen from the Forestry Commission said that while there are financial worries they are committed to the mountain bike trails.

"I can assure the management and maintenance of these trails is priority for us and will remain a priority," he said.

"It would be suicidal not to continue to maintain these trails.

"The Forestry Commission is committed to making sure that these trails remain at the very top of the world's mountain bike trails."

The commission is identifying the trails that need maintenance over the next few years.




SEE ALSO:
Foresters battle mountain bikers
26 Feb 04  |  Derbyshire
Competitors get on their bikes
31 May 03  |  Scotland


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