6 February 2023

Paid parking coming to Stromlo Forest Park but money will help facility grow

| Ian Bushnell
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Three men standing in front of a car park

Canberra Offroad Cyclists president Matt Batty and We Ride’s Stephen Hodge with Special Minister of State Chris Steel at Stromlo Forest Park. The car park is behind them. Photos: Ian Bushnell.

Users of the popular Stromlo Forest Park will no longer have a free ride but will have to pay for parking once a new, sealed and bigger car park is built this year.

The government has adopted the National Arboretum model, where all parking revenue goes back to the facility. In Stromlo’s case, this will allow investment in new tracks and trails and general maintenance.

Special Minister of State Chris Steel said the current unmarked dirt car park could no longer cope with the increasing number of visitors and was unsafe, especially with the wet weather washing away sections.

READ ALSO From little things, big things grow: National Arboretum celebrates 10 years

Mr Steel said the new car park would boost capacity from 316 to 509 spaces, including 16 for people with a disability.

He said modest and flexible fees would suit those who needed to use the park for long periods: 15-minute drop-offs will be free, 15 minutes to 3 hours will cost $1.75, 3 to 6 hours will cost $2.75, and 6-plus hours will cost $3.90.

An annual $87 pass will also be available, equating to $1.67 per week or about 24 cents a day over the year. The fees will be reviewed annually.

Mr Steel said the estimated revenue from the car park would be $238,000 a year, but with annual visitation at 560,000 and growing, that amount could rise.

He said the park would still receive other government funding in addition to the parking revenue.

Construction of the paved and lit car park will begin in May and be complete by the end of the year.

The government is also set to begin work on a five-year Stromlo Forest Park Trails Master Plan, in which the public can have their say.

It will review existing trails and plan for new trails for key site users, including runners, mountain bike riders, road cyclists, equestrian riders and the general public.

“It’s clearly getting to the point where from a work health and safety point of view and also to achieve the vision that we’ve established in the master plan that we do need to make changes to the parking but in a way that also benefits the users out here by making sure that they’ve got more attractive new tracks and trails,” Mr Steel said.

“What I’ve heard, particularly from the mountain biking community, is that while we’ve had a number of tracks and trails that have been established here now at the park for around 10 years, they’d like to see more interesting and new challenges on the mountain.

“The development of the Trails Master Plan, and then using the investment from the pay parking, will enable us to establish some new tracks and trails which will make this an even better facility and more interesting for the existing users and also draw in new users and new major events here to Stromlo Forest Park.”

Stromlo Forest Park’s dirt car park: unsafe and too easily damaged in bad weather.

Canberra Offroad Cyclists president Matt Batty said the park was no longer coping with the kind of growth the facility had experienced over the past few years and needed an upgrade.

“We do need the resources to make sure that [growth] is sustainable,” he said.

“It really is good that the management here and the government have been looking at opportunities for multiple ways to do that so that the users of the park know that the park is going to be maintained and that they’re going to get value for money.

“Someone’s going to pay, the question is, who’s going to pay? How are they going to pay and when are they going to pay? And it’s appropriate that those who get the most bang from the park at least contribute in some way.”

We Ride director of national advocacy Stephen Hodge said the car park plans and master plan were great news for park users.

“We love the fact that the money raised here, essentially a gold coin donation, is going each time you come back into the park,” he said.

READ ALSO What’s new about the ACT’s proposed rules for the pool?

Mr Hodge said cycle tourism was worth more than $1 billion to the Australian economy, and the parking initiative and the master plan work would only increase the number of people coming to Canberra to use or compete at the park.

“We’re really pleased to see the government’s commitment to continue investing in this marvelous community but nationally recognised facility as well,” he said.

“We’ve already held a world mountain bike championship here and a world cup here and international level running races. There’ll be many more to come, I’m sure.”

Mr Steel also said the park’s Criterium Track extension would be completed this week, giving non-car users a safer way to access the park.

The new connection to the pool would enable triathletes to complete running, swimming and riding competitions seamlessly.

The government also remained committed to a flow trail from Stromlo to the Cotter this term.

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fridgemagnet1:50 pm 22 Mar 24

Other than rampant profiteering, are there specific reasons why Stromlo Forest Park has dramatically extended pay parking hours when compared to that of the Arboretum (the managers of Stromlo and the people who pushed hard to introduce pay parking there)?

Pay Parking: 7 days a week
Arboretum (9am-4pm)
Stromlo Forest Park
(6am-6pm) = 5 hrs extra
(6am-9pm Daylight Savings) = 8 hrs extra

Outrageous and opportunistic.

The site plan is not effective and a waste of money. I doubt that the actual users have actually been consulted, The mountain bike and road riders aren’t concerned about the dirt carpark, They’d rather the funds be spent on the trails. A tar carpark will only make the ambient and ground heat a lot worse (at least soul absorbs and dissipates heat better than tar) and unless they make the car parks bigger than standard that parks it will not be usable for unloading and loading bikes. So unsure how they have stated the increase in car parks that will result from this works (as plan looks like standard car parks you find at a shopping centre). They are also planning to disconnect the carpark from handlebar / cafe area and where riders entre the park, while adding a surplus green space that has no purpose or value add.
What is the point of lighting when the park is only open during daily light hours anyway. Waste of money that won’t result in greater use of the facilities, and pay for parking will just see riders go elsewhere where they don’t have to pay.

fridgemagnet2:46 pm 07 Feb 23

‘User Pays’ is an argument often used to impose a revenue model. Stating ‘the money will go back into the venue’ is a way to quieten those voices it is imposed upon. It is not what users wanted and actual consultation would have borne this out (park users were not given an opportunity to comment on this proposal).

Given it is being imposed at Stromlo, then how the parking revenue goes back in (and specifically where it goes back in) really needs to be open, transparent AND fairly attributed. The parking app the government use should be be able to capture demographic data of those using the venue and provide stats on how much revenue is earned from user groups like mountain bikers, road riders, horse riders and runners. The revenue split should be put toward maintenance of infrastructure for those groups (for instance 65% mtb, 15% road rider, 20% runner). Knowing this will ensure the fair and proportionate distribution of revenue.

Kate Bradney9:46 am 07 Feb 23

I do worry that it makes it harder for all families in ACT to access and enjoy bike riding.

Could they offer concession annual passes for families with a healthcare card?

What’s most alarming to me is that it’s completely contradictory to how the ACT Government treats other carpark use on public land (eg subsidising Brindabella Christian College to use public land for free for car parking).

One rule for private developments, another rule for public facilities.

Agree with your comment on the inconsistency of ACT government policy, fees and subsidies. Favourites are exempt from fees, private schools are treated as more important than the broader community. Its really hard to see any logic for decision-making other than personal pet project or organisations.

However, the fees here are so low that I cannot see how this would deter families. If they can afford to run a car, they can afford the fees which are ridiculously small compared to what you’d pay in most other cities.

The cyclists don’t want families at the park. This deters people just wanting to go without being pro cycling. Its insulting to all those people with families and have children.
If you want to go out for the day this is no longer the place for you.

If the government or friends don’t like you they’ll just tax you away. There is no reason the government can’t just fund the parking upgrade. We all pay taxes after all, why shouldn’t those riding to the park also pay for the upgrades. This is targeted at families.

I’m pretty sure if you asked most of the regular people who use Stromlo you’d find that we’re a pretty welcoming bunch and have families with children that also ride at Stromlo too. Mountain biking as a sport has grown in popularity and evolved into different genres of riding. As a result many users have been asking for more variety of trails and better maintenance from the much higher use of the trails. This is the government’s response in trying to address those requests.

I do recognise that paying for parking isn’t great if you’re not a regular user of the park and/or are just trying to get your kids active and showing them that you can have fun and not making use of the running track, trails, crit track, toilets etc. But the same could be said of the Arboretum.

What a stupid comment. If you stay all day it will cost $3.90.

Park tax.

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