Should there be paid parking for people using the cycling facility at Stromlo Forest Park?

Tim Gavel 19 October 2021 139
Mountain biking

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads … but free parking would be nice. Photo: File.

Paid parking in Canberra has been a magnet for controversy and will continue to be so into the future with the city’s burgeoning population.

Most of us can well remember the outcry when the National Capital Authority introduced paid park into the Parliamentary Triangle in 2014.

To a certain extent, it is now accepted that if you park in that area, you will need to pay for the pleasure.

The latest flashpoint for paid parking is the cycling facility at Stromlo Forest Park.

In the latest budget, the ACT Government allocated funding for the design, paving and lighting of the current dirt car park.


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The ACT Government has stated that sealing the car park will improve safety and the efficient allocation of car spaces.

All very well and good, but the news hasn’t been greeted favourably on several fronts. The first is the prioritisation of the construction of a sealed car park over spending money on improving the cycling facilities at Stromlo.

This point has created plenty of debate on social media, as has speculation that paid parking will be introduced once construction is complete.


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Fuelling the speculation was the response to a question on this issue in the ACT Legislative Assembly earlier this month.

In the Hansard account of his response, Transport Minister Chris Steel said, “There is an ongoing conversation that we are currently having about how we can make Stromlo Forest Park the best possible recreational facility for Canberra, for interstate visitors and Canberrans alike”.

“We have noted the model that is currently in existence at the Arboretum, where all of the revenue from the car parking, which is paid parking, is used to improve the fantastic facilities at the Arboretum. We are considering the range of options that might be available in relation to Stromlo Forest Park to make sure that the facilities there continue to get better over time.”

The reference to the Arboretum is important given the reasoning behind paid parking at that facility is so that money is put back into the facility.

I guess that means using the money raised from parking for running costs and possible upkeep.

So would paid parking at Stromlo become more palatable if the money was put straight back into improving the facility?


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I have written about concerns within the Canberra off-road cycling community about building more mountain bike trails.

Perhaps this is one way to finance the construction, or should the funding allocated to the car park be put straight into building new trails and improving the existing facility?

Or will paid parking become a deterrent to cyclists using Stromlo Forest Park?

The ACT Government says extensive consultation has been occurring and will continue.

It is yet another chapter in the life of Stromlo Forest Park.


What's Your Opinion?


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139 Responses to Should there be paid parking for people using the cycling facility at Stromlo Forest Park?
Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:50 am 21 Oct 21

Alan Vogt appears to be advocating free parking for the MTB enthusiasts only.

    Michael Cuddihy Michael Cuddihy 12:28 pm 21 Oct 21

    I think about 400k + people visit Stromlo each year. Runners, road cyclists, walkers, parents with kids learning to skate/ride/XC ski, parents supporting kids at the regular running carnivals, swimmers, triathletes.

    However, after regular visits over the last few decades, I pretty sure that mountain bikers are the largest user group.

Jim Reid Jim Reid 8:17 am 21 Oct 21

ACT Govt doesn’t need any more $$ they’re literally the worst financial managers and they wouldn’t be transparent as to where the funds would go.

    Helen Brinsmead Helen Brinsmead 3:22 pm 21 Oct 21

    Jim Reid they're the only state government that runs all the local council facilities and services as well as education and health.

    Ryan Molyneux Ryan Molyneux 7:27 pm 21 Oct 21

    Helen Brinsmead and that's exactly why our local council facilities, health services and education services garbage.

    Helen Brinsmead Helen Brinsmead 7:34 pm 21 Oct 21

    Are they? Are they really? For a city state of 400 000 they're pretty good. Been to Geelong, Launceston or Elizabeth lately?

Eric Tenthorey Eric Tenthorey 6:55 am 21 Oct 21

In Canada you actually need to pay a fair amount to access a facility like this. As you would with skiing. A small parking fee wouldn't be a bad thing, especially if it helped maintain the facility. No reason taxpayers should be forking out major cash for such a nouveau riche activity.

    Alan Vogt Alan Vogt 9:33 am 21 Oct 21

    I have travelled and raced at a good number of mountain bike destinations in British Columbia (including Squamish, Whistler, Cumberland, etc). There was no charge for parking or park use. Lift tickets would have to be purchased should you want to save yourself a ride up and Stromlo has a similar thing with the Shuttle Service.

    Eric Tenthorey Eric Tenthorey 10:13 am 21 Oct 21

    Alan Vogt interesting...in Montreal at mt rigaud you had to pay to access the trails...no lifts.

Andrew D'Arnay Andrew D'Arnay 6:48 am 21 Oct 21

Just ride your bike !!

Pete Repeat Pete Repeat 11:44 pm 20 Oct 21

Ha ha ha. They want to share the road

local1 local1 11:02 pm 20 Oct 21

Why can’t they ride their bikes to Stromolo rather than drive? Then they wouldn’t need a carpark…

    carnardly carnardly 2:36 pm 21 Oct 21

    So a parent with 3 little kids that live in tuggeranong or queanbeyan can’t take their kids for a ride there because riding to SFP, doing a ride and coming home again is too long?

    or well, you know, they could drive there, take their bikes, have a super fun afternoon and enjoy healthy physical exercise…

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 9:17 pm 20 Oct 21

I agree in the principle of charging the economic cost of providing a public place to park a private vehicle. But, just can't see how this one would work when there are many free or low cost substitutes available.

Geoff Withers Geoff Withers 8:22 pm 20 Oct 21

Registration charges in the ACT should cover parking costs, its ridiculously high.

Phillippa Clare Phillippa Clare 6:22 pm 20 Oct 21

But it won't be.

Ian Fitzgerald Ian Fitzgerald 6:09 pm 20 Oct 21

Haha, when this comes in I'll be seeing you at Majura.

Josh Divito Josh Divito 5:22 pm 20 Oct 21

Soon they will make us pay to park in our own driveway 🙄🤦‍♂️

    Steven Kreusser Steven Kreusser 6:07 pm 20 Oct 21

    Josh Divito Shhhhh, dont give them ideas…

    James Prest James Prest 1:41 am 21 Oct 21

    Josh Divito they already do!!! Rates bill anyone?

Michael Cuddihy Michael Cuddihy 3:51 pm 20 Oct 21

It would be great to get the Government to listen and get genuine community input on their plans. What are options that the Government has considered in relation to Stromlo Forest Park to make sure that the facilities there continue to get better over time? Can the options (including the option of paid parking) be publicly communicated directly with the user base of Stromlo?

I am predominantly a mountain biker, but also use the road cycling and swimming facilities and occasionally run there as well. So I realise that the user group is diverse. Of course, it is appropriate that the Stromlo Stakeholder Consultative Committee (SSCC) is a key mechanism for community consultation. However, I believe it is likely that the vast majority of users of Stromlo Forest Park are not taking part in the organised sport but using the facilities individually or with their friends, as opposed to taking place in an event organised by a club. The majority of users will probably not be members of these clubs, nor are the clubs necessarily set up well to gather views of the broader user community, as distinct from their member base.

There is a great need for clearer and vastly more public communication of those plans to enable better analysis of options, and input into Government decision making.

That may be a lofty goal, but I think there are ways of involving the various user groups. Ideally, this information could be publicly accessible using the internet, and take account of user groups in social media. The YourSay ACT Government website has some useful models, and a number of consultation mechanisms were used to prepare the Canberra Mountain Bike report. Other options include survey linked to from the Stromlo Forest website.

And then PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THE COMMUNITY SAYS

Bobby Ramsey Bobby Ramsey 2:28 pm 20 Oct 21

And the parking fees would increase on the 1st of July every year.. before you know it it will be $20 per day and they will force you to pay for parking you don’t need until 10pm, like they do in the city.

Shaun Lonergan Shaun Lonergan 2:04 pm 20 Oct 21

Seriously dumb and put meters across Denman too... as that is where everyone will park!

    Michael Tanner Michael Tanner 4:29 pm 20 Oct 21

    Shaun Lonergan, it’s kinda like a fit tax.

Finagen_Freeman Finagen_Freeman 1:44 pm 20 Oct 21

If we have to pay at the Hospitals then we sure as hell should pay at a sporting / recreational venue.

Oh, we don’t pay at the hospitals?
Of course, Stromlo is a lead in to paid parking territory wide. Hospital infrastructure in and ready to go. Political will and public acceptance now under test.

It’s going in. Get ready.
Don’t forgot to keep voting for the same people who brought you high rates, and marginal use trams.

purplevh purplevh 1:18 pm 20 Oct 21

Paid parking out there? Can’t the ACT government come up with better ways to raise revenue other than constantly slugging the motorist and the homeowner?

Some clever investments that have a monetary return might be better.

Mandy Truman Mandy Truman 1:09 pm 20 Oct 21

Yes. Why do cyclists get everything for free?

    Alan Vogt Alan Vogt 1:32 pm 20 Oct 21

    I'm confused. Can you name the everything please.

    Mandy Truman Mandy Truman 1:39 pm 20 Oct 21

    Alan Vogt no rego, free bike tracks, free use of the road, free parking

    Alan Vogt Alan Vogt 1:52 pm 20 Oct 21

    Mandy Truman Every cyclist I know already pays rego. Mountain bike tracks, walking tracks, equestrian trails, fire roads, ovals, lakes, forests, parks are part of the recreation infrastructure we as residents enjoy and contribute toward through taxation (along with our health and welfare systems, general government and parking).

    Toby McLenaghan Toby McLenaghan 3:35 pm 20 Oct 21

    Mandy Truman exactly the way it should be

Graham Smith Graham Smith 12:25 pm 20 Oct 21

Yep…it’s definitely time to introduce Pay Parking.

There’s no such thing as a ‘free car park’. The lost opportunity costs of ‘Free Car Parks’ are being paid for in other ways.

Users of Stromlo Forest Park with $50k SUVs and racks of $10k MTBs can afford a few $ for parking.

And there’s always the option of cycling to a cycling facility. 🚴🏻

    Alan Vogt Alan Vogt 1:20 pm 20 Oct 21

    No. There are hundreds of such things (free carparks) right across Canberra and for that matter right across Australia - used by recreation users (mountain bikers, trail runners, walkers, hikers etc). They're community assets.

    Michael Roy Michael Roy 3:54 pm 20 Oct 21

    Alan Vogt Free parking isn't really free. All parking costs something it is just about who pays and when. While paid parking is paid by those doing the parking, free parking is paid for by everyone.

    Alan Vogt Alan Vogt 4:05 pm 20 Oct 21

    Michael Roy No mate. Free parking really is free.

    Graham Smith Graham Smith 4:06 pm 20 Oct 21

    Alan just because they are free to the users doesn’t mean they didn’t cost the rest of the community to build and to maintain them. So they are not really free. They are being paid for out of general revenue.

    I’m a car owner/driver and a cyclist, and believe that cars are too cheap, parking is too cheap, and fuel is too cheap. We don’t pay the real cost.

    For the long term benefit of Canberra as a liveable city we need to rely less on cars, and to pay more of the real costs of allocating so much open space to motor vehicles.

    I’d even be in favour of paid bicycle parking if the parks were high standard and secure like they are in Japan.

    User pays is a long established practice. And it will work ok at SFP.

    Alan Vogt Alan Vogt 4:16 pm 20 Oct 21

    Graham Smith high standard and secure. Apartment complexes don’t even have that.

    Graham Smith Graham Smith 4:25 pm 20 Oct 21

    Alan they do in Japan. Theft is almost unknown there.🙂 The only problem is finding your bike in the crowd.

    Graham Smith Graham Smith 7:02 pm 20 Oct 21

    Alan yes I agree there are lots of community facilities we pay for in rates and taxes but not directly with fees. Gutters, parks, bike paths, streets etc

    But it’s time that car parking at SFP is user pay just like it is at the Bot Gardens, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and The Arboretum.

    Alan Vogt Alan Vogt 7:07 pm 20 Oct 21

    Graham Smith no mate. Spending $2.9m to seal a carpark (that can be argued isn’t needed) then to thinly veil a use charge as a return to fund ongoing maintenance isn’t what I’d call an astute use of infrastructure funding. There are other options that would better address the maintenance of the venue.

    Graham Smith Graham Smith 7:29 pm 20 Oct 21

    Alan I’m interested to hear about the other options, how they’d be funded and who’d pay for them.

    SFP is a brilliant facility and one of the best projects to come out of the bushfire recovery work, but in the long term the ongoing operating costs will need to be at least part cost recoverable.

    The capital expenditure came from the whole community, most of whom will never use SFP, and it was substantial.

    Currently SFP looks and feels a bit like a free, all year round ski resort. That’s not sustainable.

    Paid car parking makes sense to me.

    Alan Vogt Alan Vogt 7:45 pm 20 Oct 21

    Graham Smith one option the venue managers are actively looking at is a trail sponsorship / adoption model where commercial partners have opportunity to align their brand with the venue. “This trail brought to you by (insert name here)” for instance. This model has been used successfully elsewhere and could work here. It’s not really a resort, but there are many users and a good amount of trail. Like other trail riding areas in ACT there could and should be more trail and more diversity of riding.

    Graham Smith Graham Smith 7:54 pm 20 Oct 21

    Alan I’ve been involved in obtaining and managing sponsorships for much of my professional life, and even in retirement I’ve worked hard to raise sponsorship and obtain donations for good causes.

    Believe me. Parking fees will be much easier to implement and maintain, more cost effective and in the long term fairer.

    Seeking sponsors, and retaining them is a complex, expensive process. Especially in the current Covid context.

    Alan Vogt Alan Vogt 8:09 pm 20 Oct 21

    Graham Smith a challenge I agree. Having run large sporting events for a period of my working career I have a little experience with this. The Arboretum have pretty solid experience in this space. I believe they’ll be up to the task and if the proportion of mountain bikers in the IT and construction industry Is any indicator I expect there are a good number of local companies eager and capable to assist. If only Celeste Barber was a mountain biker 😉

    Michael Roy Michael Roy 8:17 pm 20 Oct 21

    They really aren't, I would suggest reading "the high cost of free parking" by Donald Shoup. You can also read about demand based pricing, also look into works by Jeff Speck.

    Of course we shouldn't just put a parking fee in place we need to couple it with alternative access arrangements, buses, cycling and walking infrastructure etc.

    Graham Smith Graham Smith 9:32 pm 20 Oct 21

    Alan all the best. However it happens, it’ll be great to see SFP continue to develop as an outstanding National quality facility with clear long term goals with a sound business plan of how to achieve them.

    Eric Tenthorey Eric Tenthorey 7:08 am 21 Oct 21

    Graham Smith I agree completely. It's like a progressive tax.

    Graham Smith Graham Smith 8:03 am 21 Oct 21

    Michael good suggestions.

    Another consideration is certainty that the revenue from pay parking is well and truly sufficient to cover the implementation / admin. costs, and the $income will be enough to generate ongoing revenue to improve SFP.

    I remember when entry fees were first introduced for Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve decades ago, the numbers didn’t add up. The implementation costs exceeded the revenue.

    I generally agree with ‘user pays’ (especially for car parking) provided the financial modelling is correct and transparent.

    Michael Roy Michael Roy 6:38 pm 21 Oct 21

    I strongly argue for paid parking to be used for local public realm. Eg paid parking in Braddon should be used for beautification of the local area (trees, seating, bike infra etc).

Brindie Brindie 12:10 pm 20 Oct 21

If paid parking was introduced at this venue, users would simply park their vehicles in the nearby streets of Wright and then cycle up to the venue. As another commentator has already noted, Wright is already congested with parked vehicles as the ACT’s incompetent planning authorities do not require developers to install an adequate number of car parking places for their ugly apartment buildings. Streets are full of parked cars; utes and trucks now with vehicles often left on verges. The ACT Government should look elsewhere for revenue to waste.

Wade Bermingham Wade Bermingham 11:30 am 20 Oct 21

"what if?" they ask "when has it ever?" asks everyone else

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