For the first time in 7 editions, next November 5 the bikes of the Epic Camí de Cavalls 360º will not be able to race through the Natural Park of s’Albufera des Grau. The passage through this section of the first stage must be done in a neutralized way. Who and how has made this decision? What do we think about this ban and the way it has been managed?
Last August the Government of the Balearic Islands approved the PRUG (Master Plan of Use and Management) of the Natural Park of s’Albufera des Grau. Article 6.1.7 expressly prohibits “competitive mountain biking sports events”.
This prohibition was approved after the presentation of our project and request for permits for the Epic Camí de Cavalls 360º 2021. In other words: when we requested the permits for the 2021 edition, there was no prohibition in force on our activity and, therefore, it could have been authorized without any impediment. But it was not like that.
We believe that this decision, and especially the way it has been managed, is a serious mistake. The decision denotes an absolute lack of knowledge regarding our activity and what it implies at the organizational level. The way it has been managed, enforcing a ban that this year could and should be avoided, conveys a total lack of sensitivity.
To put this error into context, we want to remember a series of important points in relation to our race:
– We have raced by MTB through the Natural Park every year since 2015, paying the corresponding fees and always complying with the multiple conditions that have been set on us, allocating numerous resources and personnel to this. The conditions have been abundant and varied: getting off the bike in sections of steep slopes, being silent in nesting areas and bird roosts, not leaving the path, marking fragile areas, indicating the entrance and exit of the Natura 2000 areas, doing quiet starts, etc.
– We were not informed in the public hearing process, nor were we informed or consulted by any of the interlocutors that we have had in the Government of the Balearic Islands, despite organizing an activity directly affected by the new master plan .
– We have carried out a pedagogical task with our participants from the beginning, so they are much more aware than the vast majority of people who access fragile natural spaces throughout the year in Menorca. Our goal is that natural spaces are respected not only during the course of the race, but also the rest of the year. A sporting event is a great opportunity to educate, since it is in responsible contact with the environment that environmental awareness is forged.
– Not only aware, but also controlled: the participants provide us with their personal details, sign an environmental responsibility document, receive information about the importance of the natural areas through which they will pass and the correct or incorrect behaviors in these environments, they are sanctioned if they fail to comply with any of the rules… They are subject to infinitely greater control than any other user of these areas.
– We started adopting measures on our own initiative long before they were required by the authorities, such as forcing to mark the wrappers of bars and gels with the bib number (applying the corresponding penalty if one is found on the way), not to use single-use plastic cups, etc.
– We contribute and collect funds for the conservation of the Camí de Cavalls. Many participants make a voluntary contribution to the conservation of the Camí de Cavalls. We ourselves as organizers voluntarily contribute € 2 per participant. In total, through these two channels we have contributed € 36,500 since 2017.
– We have always opted for a limited number of participants, among other reasons to minimize as much as possible the concentration of participants on the route and minimize the possible impacts of the activity. This has in many cases reduced the income from registrations.
– Races like ours promote sporty Menorca, natural and away from the high tourist season. On a small island as touristic and humanized as Menorca, highlighting the landscape and the environment is the best guarantee of long-term conservation. And even more so if it is accompanied by good management by the authorities.
For all these reasons, we believe that it is not only a mistake, but also an irresponsibility that in this edition the passage through the s’Albufera des Grau Natural Park has been banned at the wrong time.
We apologize to the participants of the MountainBike Epic 360° in the 2021 edition. We have done everything in our power, but it has not been possible to redirect the situation.
Doing a neutralized section of the course does not have to be bad in itself: it allows you to enjoy aspects that can be overlooked in the race. What we want, above all, is to bear in mind that the environment (the real world’s, not the office’s) is not to blame for this mistake by the environmental authorities. Therefore, let us enjoy and respect, as we have always done, both the trail and its surroundings as well as the rest of its users.