8 October 2022

Stromlo Park users disappointed by carpark plans as fears of paid parking remain

| Lottie Twyford
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Stromlo Forest Park

Stromlo Forest Park users are up in arms over the Government’s plans for the car park, with many arguing more consultation needs to happen. Photo: James Coleman.

Regular users of Stromlo Forest Park continue to hold serious concerns about the Government’s proposed upgrades to the car park, with many calling for investment to be directed to the trails instead.

The ACT Government budgeted $3 million last year for design work on the project, saying at the time an upgrade was necessary in response to increased visitation and to improve user safety.

In the government’s plans, the current dirt car park – which does not have marked parking spaces – would be turned into a ‘Village Green’, a “central community space” that could be used for larger events.

Two new asphalt car parks would then be built with 500 formal parking spaces (10 per cent larger than standard car park size). Disabled, long vehicle and short-stay parking would also be provided.

The government’s also touting the new design as including “soft landscaping incorporating deciduous and native trees, native shrubs and groundcovers to create green pockets of space around parking spaces and improved stormwater management blended into the environment”.

The ACT Government's proposal for the Stromlo Forest Park car park. Image: ACT Government.

The ACT Government’s proposal for the Stromlo Forest Park car park. Image: ACT Government.

Unfortunately, those plans are not sitting well with mountain bikers who frequent the park.

Keen mountain bike rider Karl Brown, who has lodged a petition with the ACT Legislative Assembly calling upon the Government to reconsider its design, isn’t convinced it’s what’s needed, and nor is he convinced any real consultation has taken place.

“It takes away access to all the good areas like Handlebar, the main trails and the pump track,” he said.

He’s worried about the introduction of what looks to him like small, marked parking spaces.

“What we have right now works well … it doesn’t need to be regulated,” he said.

“Most people who go there drive a ute or a four-wheel drive or they are families with kids with two or three bikes. We also see tourists who have vans and caravans and it doesn’t look like there will be much space for them.”

Mr Brown said the replacement of the dirt car park with an asphalt one was welcomed, but he’d still much rather see the money go towards improvements on the trails.

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Alan Vogt, who coordinates the Kowalski Brothers volunteer trail-building group agreed.

“If Stromlo Forest Park had actually consulted with regular park users they would know the single most important issue to address is the chronic underfunding of trail maintenance and lack of new trail infrastructure,” he said.

“The frustrating thing for me is that for the same budget you could deliver a derby-level amount of trail infrastructure and reposition Canberra as a pre-eminent destination for tourism.”

The Government has yet to confirm whether it will introduce paid parking following upgrades to the car park, but Mr Brown said there’s a lot of speculation about it coming.

“I know they haven’t officially said it but there’s a lot of chatter about it,” he explained.

“We are worried it will just push people to park in nearby suburbs and annoy residents there.”

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said last year the model of paid parking at the arboretum had been considered in relation to Stromlo Forest Park. Photo: Region.

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel somewhat cryptically told the Assembly in August 2021 that conversations were “ongoing” about how the park could be the best possible facility for Canberra.

“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,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Government said a decision on paid parking had yet to be made.

The Government also defended the consultation process, saying several groups had been consulted and the plans had been published on social media for feedback since August.

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Mr Brown’s petition has been sponsored by Canberra Liberals MLA Nicole Lawder who said she shared many of the riders’ concerns.

“People often stay in the park for hours at a time, out mountain biking or trail running in the area,” she said.

“By improving the car park design and ensuring that no paid parking arrangements are introduced, we can encourage more people to utilise the area and experience the benefits of exercising outdoors.”

ACT Greens MLA Jo Clay has also urged the Government to up the ante on community consultation for the future of Stromlo Forest Park.

You can sign Mr Brown’s petition online. It is only open to ACT residents.

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Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel somewhat cryptically told the Assembly in August 2021 that conversations were “ongoing” about how the park could be the best possible facility for Canberra.
Translation: Decision made. Start saving your pennies to pay the parking fees. Why do they always lie?

homicidehank8:53 pm 09 Oct 22

All those poor Mountain biker’s with their $1000’s dollars worth of bike’s, crying over ash tray change parking fee’s.
Hit them with users pay fee’s …you lame-o

Dont be stupid. Its about common sense. Obviously no one wants a new car park that breaks the existing utility of the area. I suspect the majority would welcome paid parking if it was not just another way to fleece the community .. (like the $5M raised from the 40k zone along Northbourne) The continued willful incompetence by ACT planners in this little country town is depressing.

Capital Retro3:28 pm 09 Oct 22

No public consultation needed as this is definitely a “user pays” project.

There are a lot more people in Canberra that will never use the facilities there than those who do.

Linda Seaniger2:39 pm 09 Oct 22

Why does out labor/green government waste our money on Frivolous projects like parking surfaces, trams Etc. When we need bridge over the Molonglo river and a up grade on the sewer treatment plants or more hospitals staff?

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