Twelve months ago, more than 60% of the Cudlee Creek Forest was destroyed by the devastating Adelaide Hills bushfire.
Before the fires, excellent soil, elevation and forest landscapes motivated the design and construction of some 48 km of professional mountain bike trails. Known by many names, including Fox Creek, the forest contains the largest number of mountain bike trails in Adelaide’s Mount Lofty Ranges, with over 20,000 mountain bike visitors enjoying the trails each year.
The tragic fires of December 2019 impacted many people and took away many things, including the destruction of both the Fox Creek pine plantation and these popular Adelaide Hills trails.
Forged out of the flames came a new beginning, an opportunity to reimagine the Fox Creek mountain bike experience. Working together, community members, local mountain clubs, Bike SA, ForestrySA and the Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing looked at ways to rebuild the trails, while supporting the recovery of the local community.
The ForestrySA Cudlee Creek Forest Trails Fire Recovery Strategy was born as the means to define a new beginning. Many people, both locals and visitors commented on the importance of the Cudlee Creek Forest trails, benefitting from not just mountain biking but a range of activities including trail running, recreational walking, dog walking and enjoying nature. It became evident that the Cudlee Creek Forest had the opportunity to become more than just trails. A combination of experiences, infrastructure and services were recommended, as a means of attracting visitors to not only the trails, but a destination offering high quality, unique experiences.
A strong, united vision
Cudlee Creek Forest will be the Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges nationally recognised mountain biking destination providing exceptional experiences, skill progression and events in harmony with the forest environment and within a culture that welcomes other forest visitors, families and a diversity of abilities.
The vision articulates the need to grow from the former mountain bike experience and invest in new trail types including gravel and off-road cycling. The expanded and enhanced trail offer will meet the needs and preferences of a range of trail users including the higher yield cycling market, generate broader tourism and economic benefits and establish the Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges as a true mountain biking destination.
The trail to recovery
In addition to recovering from bushfires, development of the Forest Trails Fire Recovery Strategy encountered further challenges presented by COVID-19. Predicting visitor growth, trends and the economy continually evolved with initial declines due to lockdowns followed by unprecedented growth in cycling and trail use, bike sales and servicing.
To start afresh, the name Fox Creek Bike Park was chosen as an exciting name to reflect the Strategy’s vision and reduce previous confusion generated by a number of alternative names for the site.
The Strategy identifies several objectives, the Fox Creek Bike Park will:
be the primary mountain bike and trails event centre for the Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges
integrate a spirit of collaboration between different trail users and visitors and actively contribute to Cudlee Creek sustainability and biodiversity
develop the parks status as the place for skill progression and skill development from entry to highly skilled and competitor status
establish governance and management arrangements that encourage direction, leadership and long-term maintenance and resourcing
integrate the trail experience with the Adelaide Hills community and encourage the further development of trail friendly support services, hospitality and accommodation
increase mountain bike and trail visitors to Cudlee Creek Forest and the Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges through positioning, promoting and marketing of the Cudlee experience.
Recommendations specifically for bike riders and trail users include:
reinstatement of the previous trails and progressive development of up to 50 kilometres of additional introductory to advanced Fox Creek Bike Park trails
connections with future Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges Epic or hero ride across the Yurrebilla alignment and links to a future Epic Adelaide Hills Descent.
The future Fox Creek Bike Park
To understand the potential impacts of the reimagined Fox Creek Bike Park, a cost benefit analysis was undertaken. The analysis indicated significant benefit for the community resulting in an estimated financial return at greater than $5 for every $1 spent on upgrading trails, infrastructure and the trail experience.
The strategy is being used as a core component towards the preparation of grant applications, as part of the available fire and community restoration funding.
While funding is being secured, work is already commencing on the restoration of the trails, guided by the strategy with a Fox Creek Bike Park first stage opening programmed for early in 2021. The Strategy is soon to be publicly launched on the Fox Creek Bike Park website, complemented with Facebook and Instagram pages. The journey to recovery will be captured through video documentation, which will provide valuable future insights for trail managers, as we watch the process from Cudlee Creek Forest Fire to realisation of the Fox Creek Mountain Bike Park.