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By Hugh Boag
An ambitious project to create a series of mountain bike trails in the forests of Arran has been unveiled.
Already a considerable amount of preparatory work has gone into the proposed Dyemill skills trails project which is the brainchild of the Arran High School Mountain Bike Club.
The area at Dyemill, to the west of Lamlash, is said to lend itself to short, fun and repeatable trails.
Emphasis has been put on learning and progression of bike handling skills for a wide range of users.
The facility will have three descending trails catering for varying biker abilities on an all-weather type surface.
The site will be professionally designed and built to the required standards and regulations, with the appropriate signage and detailing of trail types and grading.
One of the tracks will be a hard standing trail route complete with a shelter and facilities for bike and trail maintenance and a well-maintained fleet of bikes and helmets.
The club, which is now a charity, is in negotiation with Forestry Scotland to buy the land which it would fund through a community asset transfer. That could be completed by 2022 with trails created over the next two years.
The total cost for the project is currently estimated at around £400,000 and the club admits that it is too big to take on itself. That is why it is looking for ‘enthusiastic partners’ to join it in raising the necessary funds.
Bike club treasurer Steve Garroway said: ‘There will be a meeting later in the month at which it will be proposed we change our constitution to allow other interested parties to join the club.
‘We already have considerable support from North Ayrshire Council and other bodies and groups we have approached and now we want to open up the project to the whole community.’
According to the 47-page business plan for the project, drawn up by club chairman Robert McNeice: ‘The Dyemill trails project aims are a natural evolution of what our club already achieves.
‘We will continue our club’s historical approach of recognising the significant wider community benefit found in cycling in general and mountain biking in particular.
‘We intend to create an accessible, inclusive and safe, all weather environment to grow and develop our island’s cycling community, inspiring Arran to cycle.
‘The facility will encourage residents and visitors to engage in cycling in many forms, regardless of their background, gender, age, ethnicity or ability.
‘With this new facility, our island’s cycling community will benefit from being able to grow and develop local competition and event opportunities in addition to providing a safe and accessible area for coaching and skills development.
‘To ensure the recreational area is utilised by as many of our community as possible, the trails will be sympathetically designed and built around existing local walking paths.
‘We wish to create an area that allows for outdoor learning and development of the sites’ biodiversity and history. Our forest management plan will look to actively improve and preserve the diversity of the habitat and wildlife.’
In the report Mr McNeice states: ‘With the devastating financial impact of Covid-19 on the tourism industry on Arran it would be of significant benefit if Arran could diversify and tap into the mountain biking tourism market in a similar way to the 7Stanes project saving many rural farming economies suffering from the foot and mouth outbreak.
‘Estimates from the Arran Recovery Group show tourism income on Arran is down £35 million. It cites working to retain the balance between community, environment and the economy, all the things that make Arran a special place, as the key to recovery.
‘The design of the Dyemill trails facility provides opportunities for people to participate in more than one cycling discipline in one place.
‘The facility is designed to cater for many niches within cycling including balance bike, XC, enduro, gravel, DH, BMX and trials. Each discipline will have features or specific trails to practise and be coached on.
‘With the combination of the facility being linked with the core path network, at the start of an existing off-road forest cycling route, having a multi-use pump track, trials area, and a variety of feature-rich, small repeatable loops, the facility offers something for everyone.’
Mr McNeice concludes: ‘Over the last six years, mountain biking on Arran has made considerable progress.
‘It has been shown that through a unique island approach the mountain bike club can work in effective partnerships that deliver practical projects of significant social impact to our wider island community.’