BEST OF 2021: Should there be paid parking for people using Stromlo Forest Park cycling facility?

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Mountain biking

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

Year in Review: Region Media is revisiting some of the best Opinion articles of 2021. Here’s what got you talking, got you angry and got you thinking in 2021. Today, paid parking at Stromlo … we could have guessed you wouldn’t like paying for parking.

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.

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.”

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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?

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.

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Linda Seaniger4:13 pm 08 Jan 22

Another money grab from the ACT government. I can understand that they might wish to recover some of the money to upgrade the improvements to the bike recreational area. However imposing a fee at the Stromlo Bike Park might encourage them also to put paid parking into the Stromlo pool area. If not bikers will just download their bikes in the pool carpark, they already do I might add when there’s any competitions on. I would strongly oppose the introduction of packing fees at the Stromlo pool I already pay a membership fee whole others paid an entrance fee to use the facilities. We can’t always tax or charge parking fees where we were encouraging people to exercise. Get real.

Capital Retro10:23 pm 08 Jan 22

I had to wait for two and a half hours to get some business transacted at an Access Canberra shopfront on Tuesday. Being no free parking in Tuggeranong anymore (other than up to two hours) I was slugged $12 for parking on top of the exorbitant fees I had to pay Access Canberra for a few minutes of paper shuffling.

Soon we will be paying a fee to walk and breathe in Canberra but hey, we have a sexy tram!.

Capital Retro9:50 am 21 Oct 21

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

Michael Cuddihy12:28 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.

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

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…

Michael Cuddihy3:51 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

Finagen_Freeman1:44 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.

The paid parking infrastructure was removed from the hospitals. Well Canberra hospital anyway.

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.

In this case though they are slugging the user who happens to be a motorist.

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.

Stromlo is not like the Arboretum – the Arboretum is well away from residential areas. If you want to visit the Arboretum but don’t want to pay for parking you don’t have the option of parking a 5 minute walk away in a suburb. Stromlo is within an easy 5-10 minute walk of Wright where hundreds of people live. Wright already has issues with parking as most apartment blocks do not have adequate parking – 1 carpark for a 2 bedroom apartment is standard – and so residents need to park on the street. Introducing paid parking at Stromlo will drive Stromlo users to park on the streets in Wright – creating further parking issues for residents.

Mountain biking is the main use of Stromlo and there are other mountain bike trails nearby in Canberra and Queanbeyan. Paid parking at Stromlo will likely drive people to use those facilities more often instead.

How about trialling some kind of Stromlo supporter membership? Or Stromlo merchandise? There is already someone who is clearly not from the area cashing in on this (DaDooklaDesigns on RedBubble). I personally would love to buy T-shirts, stickers or top caps with Stromlo trails on them – especially if I knew the proceeds were going back into the trails.

fridgemagnet12:32 pm 20 Oct 21

Stromlo management (Arboretum) are considering a ‘trail sponsorship’ model in the hope of attracting income from commercial business who see merit in having their brand associated with the venue. “This trail brought to you by…”. Which is more sensible option IMHO. Of course, decent funding for the venue is also necessary. Arboretum spend well over a million dollars a year to mow the grass, so the current $110K to maintain an entire trail network seems paltry.

Capital Retro3:29 pm 20 Oct 21

“This trail bought to you by ACT Ratepayers would cover it all”

Michael Cuddihy4:30 pm 20 Oct 21

and the volunteers who spent thousands of hours helping to build the trail.

But definitely, the ACT Govt did show some vision and commitment in spending some real coin to establish and build Stromlo.

The question now becomes how does Stromlo get better and keep attracting visitors and money spent by those visitors? Plus how to avoid becoming Stromlo becoming the dumping ground for every activity that the ACT Govt can’t fit elsewhere. And how will the overall trail network be developed and maintained with the user community’s interests front and centre?

Capital Retro10:09 am 20 Oct 21

Why is there even a car park at a bike facility in the first place? These people want everything for free.

fridgemagnet10:32 am 20 Oct 21

“these people” are anyone in the community.
It is a mixed use recreation venue, runners, walkers, horse riders, road and mountain bike riders. In the future there will be sporting ovals, so ‘these people’ will also cover the sports and recreation that occur on ovals too.

Have you even been there? Thousands of people use it every day. It draws people from all over australia and contributes millions to ACT economy – readily documented in ACT gov reports. The community response to this parking proposal is against the waste a significant amount of money on sealed parking, to ultimately lead to a revenue stream – when the same investment in the trails will lead to a drawcard for more visitation and usage – and economic growth.
Derby in Tasmania – a small mining town – spent the money that this car park sealing will cost – and their trails embarrass Stromlo – which is meant to be Australia premier mountain bike destination in the capital.
We are lucky to have it – but this investment is the wrong approach. Many of us locals would be happy to pay a donation/annual fee/trail building etc – but sealing a car park for the reason to get parking revenue to maybe do some trail works 5 years from now is stupid

tuggeranongist12:54 pm 20 Oct 21

Perhaps you should go for a spin on the trails there sometime – it’s great fun and might cheer you up.

Capital Retro12:55 pm 20 Oct 21

But there are only “runners, walkers, horse riders, road and mountain bike riders” and they don’t need cars, do they?

Capital Retro12:57 pm 20 Oct 21

Never even heard of it let alone been there and if there are thousands of people there every day I don’t want to be anywhere near it.

Capital Retro10:26 pm 20 Oct 21

I’m about 200km from Canberra now and very cheery, thank you.

I’m sorry, but the old adage, and proven mantra of “User Pays” holds up here – I note the comments below, got it, but really? Let’s string it out for another 10 years shall we @fridgemagnet? It is a facility frequented by a very small population of Canberra – they should contribute more than the average tax payer – it’s simple economics and good management of Government funds (or gaining Government funds in this case)…..

So – let me rebut what is already in the comments:

1. Lease Holders – just like the ventures inside the Parliamentary Triangle, protect your parking space as required and police.
2. Clubs/Stakeholders – they do not have a monopoly on the area; so test and adjust. That is plain communal living.
3. Residents – this is no different to places like Kingston, Campbell, Griffith, Woden, Tuggeranong, Belconnen, etc etc….
4. Users – as above, pay for your usage.

Have you been there? Its would have more participation than ANY other sport in the ACT – every single day – not just weekends. Not only that it draws in thousands of national visitors. It contributes $30 million annually to the ACT economy through this – taken ACT govt reports.
You will find support for user contributions to stromlo – from trail maintenance and building, and even trail support through contributions.
But that is very different to wasting the equivalent investment in improving the facility and regaining the status as a world class destination (taken over by other smaller australian destinations).
Sealed parking -> paid parking -> revenue -> trail improvements in 5 years?
No one even wants the sealed parking – spend the money on the trails, and increase the attractiveness of the venue, and increase the economic benefit and attraction to Canberra.
I can tell you its one of the key reasons why a lot of people live here, and visit here.

Being a place that helps maintain a level of fitness in its users it’s cost is most likely offset by the health benefits and their savings to the health system.

Michael Cuddihy4:25 pm 20 Oct 21

1. Lease Holders – there is a big car park. Car parks are not allocated to individual lease holders, and there are only a few.
2. Clubs – agree – clubs do not have a monopoly on the area or own the consultation process or represent all stakeholders, but they are absolutely a positive and constructive set of stakeholders whom the government should listen too..
3. Residents – will be annoyed if paid parking creates a new problem for the suburbs surrounding Stromlo
4. Users – is paid parking the right option? would the money be spent on mountain bike trails, or car parks and mowing of lawns, or just put the money raised into consolidated revenue.

Just another unneccesary gouge. Like pay parking at the Arboretum. Its not even for the parking revenue – more just to catch out those who lose track of time and penalise them for $$$.

fridgemagnet9:06 am 20 Oct 21

CONSULTATION IS REQUIRED.
Have residents in the new and emerging surrounding suburbs (Denman, Wright, Coombs etc) been consulted about the introduction of pay parking and the likely implications that may have on residents – like many vehicles parking in their streets and riding over to trails nearby. What has been the collective opinion of residents on this matter?
Was there any consultation with residents?

Lease Holders
What were the views of lease holders about these upgrades and the introduction of pay parking – like Handlebar, Stromlo Leisure Centre and others? Pay parking for will have very significant effects on bar revenue – not to mention the huge disruption to operations that major civil works will have beforehand. It will have a huge impact on the leisure centre too (as their parking is free). How do lease holders feel about this?

Clubs/Stakeholders
Where are the results of the consultation undertaken by each stakeholder group within the reference group for Stromlo showing the views of their own club membership regarding the introduction of pay parking at Stromlo? (Canberra Off Road Cyclists, Pedal Power ACT, Canberra Cycling Club, Triathlon ACT, ACT Running Club and others in the stakeholder group). How did they canvass the opinions of their members as to what they would like. Office bearers in each club committee are appointed to represent the views of their members (not make guesses about their opinions). What were the outcomes of that process?

Users (non club, the largest cohort)
I’d also like to see the results of the venue user consultation about introducing pay parking (and masterplan upgrades). As far as I’m aware there has been no consultation of people who park and use the venue. They must be surveyed by the venue managers about such a proposal.

fridgemagnet9:02 am 20 Oct 21

I have no doubt pay parking will be a huge deterent.
It is a retrograde step to introduce a charge at a valuable community recreation and sporting facility – one that contributes to health and active lifestyles for residents and families. It is also a significant drawcard for interstate active tourism. There is no charge to use Canberra’s Parks, Forests and Reserves. Like these places, Stromlo is a haven for a mix of recreation users. (Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve the one exception).

$2.9m is a huge amount of money to allocate to build a carpark at Stromlo – especially when there was no funding allocated to fund the recommendations of the Best of Canberra MTB Experience Project. The project report contains clear findings from consultation and clear recommendations on what was required and the investment needed to place Canberra back on the map as a top tier destination.

$2.9M INVESTMENT IN A CARPARK
Benefit: “Having an asphalted carpark will improve safety and enable efficient allocated carparking spaces and help to alleviate the safety concern of cars parked either side of Dave McInnes Road, currently making it unsafe for park users on foot/bike or horse.”
(SFP Managers)

$3.1m INVESTMENT IN MOUNTAIN BIKING INFRASTRUCTURE – DERBY TASMANIA
Derby in Tasmania has become the market leading destination for MTB tourism on back of an initial $3.1m government investment that created 80kms of trail. A recent Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) Case Study states:

Reputation:
“Widely regarded as the mountain bike capital of Australia. Trails voted best in the Enduro World Series (EWS) competition in 2017.”

Benefit: “The network is reportedly attracting more than 30,000 visitors every year, who spend four to five nights in Derby then another five nights elsewhere in Tasmania. The return on investment has been estimated at $30 million per year.”

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