21 September 2020

ACT mountain biking needs investment push to go to next level: parks report

| Ian Bushnell
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Mountain biking at Stromlo

Riding high above the Molonglo Valley in Stromlo Forest Park. New and challenging trails are needed. Photo: Facebook.

Canberra’s mountain bike trail network badly needs new investment if the ACT is to remain competitive as a destination for the booming sport, according to a new report.

The draft Canberra Mountain Bike Report, prepared for ACT Parks and Conservation Service and out for public comment, says Canberra aspires to be the mountain bike capital of Australia but needed new, unique and challenging trails, supporting infrastructure and services at existing trail hubs and a marketing campaign.

It says interstate riders spend around $30 million each year in Canberra, attracted by a combination of high-quality trails, natural scenery, world-class attractions, and a vibrant cycling culture.

Canberra’s proximity to Sydney and regional NSW, and the attraction of the city to international visitors, presents a significant opportunity for growth, the report says.

But Stromlo Forest Park is the ACT’s only purpose-built mountain bike park, with other trails built and managed by volunteers, mainly in plantation forests that are subject to harvesting.

The ACT lacks trails that offer at least two days of riding for interstate visitors, ‘hero’ or aspirational trails that make it a compelling destination and elevated trails when compared to other destinations.

The report notes that there has been a flurry of development in other jurisdictions, including purpose-built trails and facilities that are well funded, managed and promoted.

It says the new trails should be located in the area between Stromlo Forest Park and the Cotter Recreation Reserve, the Cotter Recreation Area and the Blue Range Area in Uriarra Forest.

”These areas offer significant potential for trail-based recreation and proximity to the city and suburbs makes it ideally suited for walking, hiking, trail running and mountain biking,” the report says.

”Stromlo Forest Park will act as the ‘gateway’ to these new trails offering high-quality infrastructure, shuttle services and an event staging area.”

The report says there is significant interest from the private sector to stage mountain bike events in the ACT but consistent trail standards, high-quality trailhead facilities and trail improvements are required.

”The lack of a coordinated approach to the development of mountain biking, trail maintenance and marketing is limiting the potential of the ACT to become an international mountain bike destination,” the report says.

The report also recommends a phased and prioritised approach to trail development, strategic plans to account for harvesting and trail development activities in plantation forests, and consistent signage across all mountain bike hubs.

It says Canberra should pursue International Mountain Bicycling Association Ride Centre status and develop a Mountain Bike Capital of Australia brand as part of the CBR CycleTourism marketing strategy.

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This would have been a great thing to be considering years ago, especially after the world championship. Other locations have seen the opportunity and invested to create bike destinations with integrated facilities and a bike focused experiences.

With urban encroachment Stromlo Park is now just another urban bike park with patchy maintenance and limited other facilities – and no integrated cycling experience. It has no world class events to make it attractive or be a place to post to your mates that you have been.

Tasmania, WA, NSW and Vic all have major mtb investments underway. Tasmania has created a total experience with villages focused on bikes, multiple trail locations with linking trails and the world XCO event. WA has the internationally recognised Cape to Cape Epic and a great mix of trail types around Margaret River with more money issued by the WA government in recent months.

Capital Retro8:04 am 17 Sep 20

Maybe the lobbyists and participants in the sport could try funding it themselves? For too long

How about the mountain bike participants fund it themselves? How much does a competitive bike cost, $5k I suppose?

Little athletics and even model aircraft clubs carry most other financial burdens themselves so why not the elitist mountain bikers too?

fridgemagnet5:51 pm 20 Sep 20

As someone who has helped build mtb trails across Canberra for better than twenty years I think it is safe to say we have been ‘funding it ourselves’ in the main the entire time. For the past two and a half years our volunteer group has been building trails in the Cotter and would appreciate some funding. Creating trail based recreation is extremely cost effective and would be a wise investment.

I guess you missed the bit about the 30million dollar contribution to the economy through cycling tourism…pretty sure your model plane club doesn’t do that. My daughter does little As, its great, but the government keep the facility in tip top condition not little As. Little As like Canberra Off Road Cycling Club (CORC) they organise and run the activities.

Capital Retro7:10 am 21 Sep 20

So, are the recipients of the “$30 million contribution to the economy” actually funding the project which will apparently be more for the use of tourists?

No, it will be the ratepayers alone and how many of them will derive a benefit from it.

Capital Retro10:55 am 21 Sep 20

If you are one of the “Three Amigos” I acknowledge that you have indeed done your bit. But where are the hundreds of others that participate in your sport?

Meanwhile it looks like the ACT government has already pulled out the cheque book: https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/newsroom/2018/10/11/act-government-commits-to-mtb-trails/#:~:text=A%20strong%20campaign%20by%20mountain,from%20The%20Sunday%20Canberra%20Times.

Maybe allow motorbikes to use them too. 🙂

russianafroman10:50 pm 16 Sep 20

Nope, we need separate tracks. Mountain biking and motocross have nothing to do with each other. Not sure why you’d even suggest this. I imagine you’ve never done either one.

I imagine I used to ride dirt bikes in stromlo when you were allowed to, champ. I raced motocross from the age of 7 until I was about 19. Thanks for asking. Toddle on.

russianafroman12:58 pm 19 Sep 20

In that case, why would you suggest we combine the two? Doesn’t sound very fair to the mountain bikers to have their course dug up by the motorbikes. Take a look at a motorbike, now look at a mountain bike. See any difference?

fridgemagnet5:53 pm 20 Sep 20

No. Dirt bikes rip up mountain bike trails (as a trail builder for more than 20 years I have seen the damage they can do and have had to make the repairs. Separate trails for dirt bikes is the way to go.

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