It's a battle between tourism and land care.
The Lithgow region is well known for bringing in four-wheel driving enthusiasts, motorbike and quad bike riders. This was evident over the Queen's Birthday long weekend with tourists flocking to our local tracks and camp sites.
The Turon River is one area that proves to be a popular destination for keen campers and while there are designated tracks for the off-roaders, some are taking advantage of the land according to Palmers Oaky Upper Turon Landcare group coordinator Robert Green.
"We have had a lot of trouble down in particular areas with four-wheel drivers, people on quad bikes, driving in and polluting the river."
He said over the long weekend a large group of campers were in a non-designated area and made a mess.
"They had chainsaws cutting up dead wood, a fire the size of a Toyota landcruiser and a pit dug full of beer tins which was still there and we had to clean it up," he said.
Mr Green said there was also a bio hazard occurring with weeds transported from other places and part of his job was to keep those weeds down.
"We've got an oil situation, silting up of the river...
"It's near impossible to maintain the weeds because there's a lot of stuff being brought in on the wheels of four-wheel drives and quad bikes," he said.
Turon landowner and contract weed sprayer Therese Wilkinson said she was concerned about the Tiger Pear weed.
"It's a nasty weed around Sofala and there are four-wheel drivers driving through that and bringing it into the river. It's easily moved just by hooking onto tyres," she said.
She said weed control on the river included digging up or finding suitable chemicals.
"We have to be careful using chemicals near waterways because we don't want to contaminate the water," she said.
Mr Green said Landcare's role was important to stop people from driving through the river which occurs too often.
"There's people down there that have had their vehicles ridged on top of rocks and can't get them off.
"The other weekend I was down there and there were blokes riding on quad bikes up and down the river and they've torn it to pieces.
"It's a biodiversity hazard doing that in the river, there's platypus in there, endangered frogs and I've even picked up turtles that have been run over down there," he said.
"A turtle crawling around for 150 years gets a cracked shell because some goose has run over it in a four-wheel drive."
Mr Green said he also once came across a wombat with an arrow through it.
Land holder, Palmers Oaky bushfire brigade captain and former EPA member Nino Di Falco said a lot of the damage to habitat came down to ignorance.
"Technically you can't stop someone accessing crown roads or rivers and that's the case with the Turon. What we can't tolerate is illegal trespassing on private property," he said.
Mr Green said four-wheel drivers had a bad name in the area due to reckless and careless attitudes.
"...Because they drive all over people's property, and all up and down the river.
"It's become like a Lawless Society down there," he said.
Contract sprayer Ms Wilkinson said she had put private property signs up which often got taken down.
"When I approach people on my property they ask me where the signs are because they haven't seen them. It's rather annoying," she said.
Mr Di Falco said there was a designated camping area further down the river that was easier to control.
"We don't want people destroying habitat and lighting fires in non-designated areas, which we can't control.
"If we get a camper who lights a fire that gets away from them that could compromise our entire valley," he said.
He said there was access to the river in designated areas and there was no reason for them to go off the main road and enter private property.
"Basically, the designated camping area that's where we want people to go and nowhere else, there's a national park, a designated paid camping area at Turon Gates and designated camping ground.
"We don't want people over the whole stretch of the river because it's impossible to control but that doesn't mean people can't enjoy the river," he said.
Mr Green said there needed to be something in place to stop four-wheel drive access in the particular area.
"There needs to be some kind of bollards or large stones put on that section of the river which is only, let's say, half a mile.
"We won't have a tourist attraction if we don't look after the river, we won't have somewhere beautiful for people to go," he said.
He said he still wanted people to enjoy Turon on foot.
"People can enjoy being on the banks of the river and doing a bit of prospecting with pans.
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"Park on the side of the road and have a walk down there to check it out.
"But for those that would like to go four-wheel driving should do on designated tracks," he said.
He said he had been in contact with the police who were keen to work with everyone in the area and keep an eye on it. He also reached out to Lithgow City Council.
"Normally the EPA would look after the rivers but because it's not a corporation or a business that's polluting the river, it's individual people, it's the council's problem," he said.
Mr Green said he addressed the Council some time ago in regards to the issue but is waiting for a response.
"We don't want to stop people from using the river but we want to stop four-wheel drivers from driving up and down in the river and on private property," he said.
"How would Ray Thompson like it if I went and crapped in his roses, it's the same thing."
"I feel Council has done a good job on the road going up to Sofala but it is now their responsibility to put some kind of fencing, bollards.. some kind of obstruction to stop knuckleheads taking their vehicles in there."
"I want to see Council take pride in the city they look after.
"They're only the custodians, the real inhabitants are every platypus, wallaby and wombat," he said.
Mr Di Falco congratulated the Council on maintaining the road to Sofala which allowed brigades access when the fires were on but he was worried about increased traffic.
How would Ray Thompson like it if I went and crapped in his roses.- Robert Green.
"People are hooning, cutting corners, there's already been accidents - it won't be long before someone gets killed on that road," he said.
He also said he'd like to see the installation of rubbish bins, fire puts and barbecues for people in the public camping ground.
The Lithgow Mercury reached out to Lithgow Council for comment.
Mayor Cr Ray Thompson said council would have an operations meeting on Wednesday, June 10 where he would bring up the issue.
"I understand both sides, we've got tourist operators that want the roads sealed so they can get in and then there's others who don't want four-wheel drivers in.
"Over the weekend the amount of people getting out of the city because they've been locked up for so long was unbelievable. There were so many four-wheel drives and motorbikes quad bikes coming through Lithgow," he said.
The Lithgow Mercury will follow up with Council.
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