Two months after he was ordered to tear down his hand-built BMX track by the side of Lake Ginninderra, Tyson Jones-Peni is over the moon.
The ACT Government is in talks with the president of the Freestyle ACT BMX (FACT BMX) club, owner of the Back Bone BMX store and avid BMX rider of 25 years about a new purpose-built BMX facility to be constructed at the Stromlo Forest Park in the Molonglo Valley.
The track will cater for the full range of skills, from beginner to “elite”, and include facilities for major events.
Tyson says it will be the “perfect platform to showcase the pinnacle of bike riding”.
“It will put Canberra on the map for freestyle BMX worldwide, as well as bolster the strength of the BMX community in Canberra.”
In June, Tyson met with government officials after he was threatened with fines by Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) if he didn’t remove a series of jumps he and some mates had constructed on a portion of public land on the shores of Lake Ginninderra in Belconnen.
He told Region the local freestyle BMX community was gutted because “there’s nothing else like it here”.
“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,” he said at the time.
The government has now announced it’s moving forwards with the master plan for Stromlo Forest Park and investing $70,000 into stage one of a new “world-class” BMX facility, and they’re asking Tyson and other local BMX riders for input on the design.
“This is all part of our plan to ensure Stromlo Forest Park continues to be a world-class facility that attracts riders from around Australia across all sports including BMX,” Special Minister of State Chris Steel said.
“Investing in a purpose-built BMX freestyle facility will give riders a place to call their own, which we hope will be ready in time for ACT Jam in November 2023.”
It comes two months after the ACT Government signed a five-year deal with the University of Canberra (UC) to deliver $2.8 million worth of improvements to the park.
These include a new 15 km mountain-bike flow trail from Stromlo to the Cotter costing $1.8 million, as well as the development of a five-year ‘Tracks and Trails Plan’ and a sponsorship agreement that gives UC naming and branding rights to the park.
UC Vice-Chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon said the partnership provides access to a world-class sport and recreation facility so students can build “stronger connections and ties” to “enable learning, sport and social experiences” and enhance the university’s research capabilities.
Paid parking is also said to generate $238,000 of income per year for the park, when it’s rolled out towards the end of the year.
“We know that continued investment in the park is really important to attract major events,” Mr Steel said.
“We’ll be consulting with the community on the Tracks and Trails Plan this year to inform where that investment goes, to make sure [Stromlo Forest Park] remains a premier mountain biking and cycling and recreational facility for the Canberra region.”
ACT Minister for Sport and Recreation Yvette Berry said BMX is an “increasingly popular activity” and the new facility will “encourage more participation in active recreation”, in line with the government’s CBR Next Move: Sport and Recreation Strategy 2023-2028.
“We’ve heard from Freestyle ACT BMX we need to make sure there’s a range of facilities available, not just for beginners and the elite riders, but also for the intermediate riders so there are opportunities for them to grow their skill level and hopefully participate in major events in the future,” she said.
Tyson says he’d like to see cafes and retail space for bike shops included in the future, but for now, he’s just “really excited”.
“It’s cool to have somewhere that allows us to run not only events but have the next generation come through and enjoy BMX. It’s a lifetime pursuit and it’s going to be massive for the community and for BMX as a sport, not only Australia-wide but also worldwide.”