14 June 2023

BMX riders under orders to remove hand-built jumps near Lake Ginninderra

| James Coleman
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BMX bike track

Lake Ginninderra BMX bike track. Photo: Tyson Jones-Peni, FACT BMX.

It took him over a year to make, but he’s been given 30 days to get rid of it.

Tyson Jones-Peni is under orders from the ACT Government to remove a dirt BMX trail he and his mates hand-built on a portion of public land near Lake Ginninderra in Belconnen.

The president of the Freestyle ACT BMX (FACT BMX) club, owner of the Back Bone BMX store and avid BMX rider of 25 years has been threatened with fines and a referral to the ACT Magistrate’s Court by Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) if he doesn’t comply.

He and the local freestyle BMX community are gutted.

“There are people building jumps all across Canberra right now, and it comes down to the fact there’s nothing else like it here,” he says.

“BMX is an entire, fully legitimate sport, not to mention that kids are outside trying to shovel dirt for hours, and that seems pretty positive compared to some of the other things people can get up to. And yet demolitions are also par for the course.”

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Riders like Tyson did have a place to go in Stromlo Forest Park, but these jumps were demolished in 2018 to make way for a smoother freestyle track and never replaced.

Since 2011, his calls for more purpose-built BMX facilities have largely fallen on deaf ears too, even when referred to Bumps and Berms. This government program was set up as a way for the community to “add additional play value to neighbourhood spaces across Canberra by designing and creating dirt bike tracks”, provided they’re designed and constructed in collaboration with the ACT Government.

“I had no response,” he says.

It’s why he finally decided to take matters into his own hands during the COVID lull in April 2021.

“I live in Belconnen, and there was a patch of bush by the lake that caught my eye – it was full of general rubbish, and there were already some little jumps, so I thought this is as good a place as any to build one.”


Tyson Jones-Peni at the Lake Ginninderra BMX track. Photo: Tyson Jones-Peni.

Over the ensuing 12 months, Tyson and his mates took up shovels and carved out seven jumps, some more than two metres tall, around a 200-metre circular track. Since then, he says the reaction has been “overwhelmingly positive”.

“We’ve had older people bird-watching that are really impressed with it, and just general members of the public walking through it who can’t believe what we’ve done.”

That was until 4 May this year, when a government notice – complete with investigation tape – appeared at the site, giving Tyson until 4 June to bring the site back to its original condition.

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A spokesperson said the ACT Government was first alerted to the track by a report from “a concerned member of the public”.

“When we become aware of tracks being built without prior approval or consultation, we try and get in contact with those who are responsible so we can work with them to ensure it meets guidelines,” the government spokesperson said.

“An inspection by officers found that the track is unsafe with work endangering the surrounding environment, including to several large established trees.”

The government has since granted Tyson an extension of 30 days “in the interests of further consultation with the group”.

BMX track

Airborne at the Lake Ginninderra BMX bike track. Photo: Tyson Jones-Peni, FACT BMX.

In the meantime, eight-time BMX and mountain bike world champion and Olympian Caroline Buchanan has also come out in support of the track, describing Canberra as her “stomping grounds” that “launched my professional cycling career”.

“The team at Back Bone BMX have been building great dirt jumps and I believe it’s greatly needed in our community to have an area they are building protected and supported for elite athletes like myself and for the next generation of kids,” she said.

However, the site’s future isn’t looking hopeful. Tyson met with a government official who he says is “advocating for a public facility, but just not this one”.

“I’m worried it’s going to take too long, and there will be an entire generation of kids that are going to go without something that is a need.”

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The ACT government also destroyed a BMX track built by local kids in the bush in South Bruce at the corner of Hayden Drive and Belconnen Way. They’re big on destroying the initiative of citizens, for spurious reasons, while making empty promises of replacements.

Is there some petition going that people can sign to support the need of this? Maybe that can help to demonstrate the community support of a facility like this.
I’m not a bmx rider myself, but I definitely support the need for facilities and features for experienced riders. And the fact that they’re community built even promotes engagement while saving the act government money. Win win.

It is unapproved and has no oversight for security and structural integrity. Different if on a private land but this is on public land and for the use of public.

Meanwhile the government are throwing tens of millions of dollars into infrastructure to improve our collective ‘wellbeing’. There has got to be an episode of Utopia here.

So sad. These riders sculpt their jumps into masterpieces. Hidden out of view they hide away. No trouble is caused. No trees are harmed. No traffic is disrupted. Some old school innocent fun. We can’t have that.

And when a curious youngster tries to “copy” his idols, attempts a dangerous jump and breaks his neck on government land………who is responsible?

Great point! Let’s ban kids riding their push bikes (or even walking) to school because they may get hit by a vehicle on a ‘government owned’ road

Sadly it’s about litigation bikerboy. The kid that gets hit on the road can (and will) sue someone. Either the driver of the car or the govt.
Will the guys that built the jumps pay for the hospital bills? Will they compensate the parents?

A weak and typical response from the ACT gov.
I heard the interview on ABC, “I’ll look into it”, “this isn’t my department”, “I’ll refer this to my colleagues”, all government speak for we will do NOTHING to support this Olympic sport!
The guy they interview has been patient beyond belief and now ACT gov are personally pursuing him to pay for these hand built ramps to be removed.

Felix the Cat8:04 pm 14 Jun 23

Govt has been like this for years. Back in the early 80s some friends built some BMX jumps on a then vacant block of land in Hawker. For the few weeks before the govt bulldozed it we had awesome fun

That’s interesting Felix, I was 10yo in 1981 living in Emu Ridge rode bmx everywhere and don’t remember the track you mention despite going on bus to school through Hawker daily. There was , however, a track at Melba I went to a lot that started out impromptu before being done up after the Dickson track closed (I think ?) . Don’t build a bmx track but stay home and use all the decriminalised drugs you like . Another example of ‘government’ ignorance of social issues.

private schools encroach on public land so their entitled students have somewhere to park … and the government just rolls over. But, promoting an outdoor activity to get kids active and away from their game consoles opens this man up to prosecution. Instead of demanding that it be torn down how about you work with him to fix the perceived dangers. Perhaps it was the illegal dumpers who want to reclaim their dump site!

People don’t get to just break the law whenever they want to, so the govt is within its rights to demand it be taken down.

But the other sideo of this is that he’s been trying it get them to build one for ages and they have refused. That is where the govt needs to change. They’re so scared that someone might get hurt… Preferring to only let us sit at home watching Netflix all day, ’cause that’s “safe”. Despite the sky-high mental health, obesity etc problems caused by them systematically taking everything else that’s enjoyable away from us.

So Brindabella Christian College can commendeer public land in broad daylight to make their own private carpark and get to keep it, but Tyson & his friends build something that looks like an extreme sports masterpiece in an otherwise neglected area and he is having the book thrown at him? That just isn’t right… If anything the builders should be getting compensated and thanked for their vision and hard work, not treated like criminals.

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