A brand-new dirt BMX track at Stromlo Forest Park hosted its first event over the weekend, the ACT Jam 2023.
The track is said to cater to beginners entering the sport right through to elite-level riders and includes seven ‘elite’ jumps and a series of 10 rolls, progressively growing in size.
It’s the result of years of campaigning from local BMX riders, including Freestyle ACT BMX (FACT BMX) Club president, Back Bone BMX owner and rider of 25 years, Tyson Jones-Peni.
In June 2023, Tyson was ordered by the ACT Government’s Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) directorate to tear down a track he and other members of the local BMX community had constructed near Lake Ginninderra in Belconnen.
“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 told Region at the time.
Two months later, he was approached by the government which said it was moving forward with a master plan for Stromlo Forest Park in the Molonglo Valley and wanted his input for a plan to invest $70,000 into a new “world-class facility”.
Several months of earth moving and compacting later, Special Minister of State Chris Steel and Minister for Sport and Recreation Yvette Berry officially opened the track on Friday, 10 November, ahead of the weekend’s ACT Jam.
“This investment in a purpose-built BMX freestyle facility gives riders a place to call their own,” Mr Steel said.
“BMX is an inclusive sport that attracts diverse riders of all ages,” Ms Berry added.
“It is also an increasingly popular sport and one that we hope families can enjoy together. Investing in a facility like this supports the government’s ambition to get all Canberrans moving more, with better grassroots sporting infrastructure in the picturesque environment at Stromlo.”
The project is part of a deal with the University of Canberra (UC) to deliver $2.8 million worth of improvements to the park, including a new 15 km mountain bike flow trail’ between Stromlo and Cotter and a five-year ‘Tracks and Trails Plan’.
The park has previously featured BMX jumps, but these were demolished in 2018 to make way for a smoother freestyle track.
The jumps were constructed in record time by Raine Turnbull and Tom Mallett – both with extensive experience – to make the deadline for the ACT Jam event, which has previously been held at the Belconnen and Gungahlin skate parks and Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC).
Tyson describes the finished product as “definitely world-class”.
“They’re some of the biggest jumps you’ll see across the world – certainly at a bike park – and building jumps of this size allows for longer airtime, bigger tricks.”
A BMX bike is the first bike for a lot of people, but Tyson says up until now, there aren’t many places in Australia where you can hone your “stacking skills”. He expects to see the next generation of “BMX rippers come out of Canberra”.
The track also received high praise from three-time BMX world champion (and Canberran) Caroline Buchanan.
“It’s very special to be an ambassador of this course – there are so many connections for me to Canberra, but also, our family home was buried literally almost under where we’re standing right now by the 2003 bushfires,” Caroline said.
“It’s been a really big push from the freestyle BMX community to have something like this. It’s just the start of many more, and once you build it, they will come … It’s already a big drawcard for the nation.”
Canberra has the highest rate of cyclists in the country. It’s estimated about 16,000 local residents rode a mountain bike in the last year, and participation among women and girls has risen by more than 80 per cent over the past five years.