Mountain Biking

Cycling groups hope for WA to become world famous for mountain bike trails – ABC News

Cycling groups are hoping a multi-million-dollar injection of Government funding will help turn Western Australia into a premier mountain bike destination and help lure adventure tourists from across the world.

While it may not have Canada’s mountains or Norway’s fjords, it is hoped high-quality mountain bike trails built in WA’s diverse forest, hills and ocean scenery will make the state stand out from the crowd.

The WA Government has allocated almost $20 million to build new mountain bike trails across the state. Some of the promised work has been completed, while other work is in the final planning stages.

The focus is around the state’s south-west and Peel regions, with more than 120 kilometres of new trails to be built near Collie within the next two and a half years alone.

“The trails we have out here are absolutely amazing,” said Erik Mellegers, president of the Collie Mountain Bike Club.

“It’s not just that we’ve got big jumps. It’s not just that we’ve got longer-distance riders.

Erik Mellegers says Collie’s trails, like the one in the newly opened Arklow Forest, are set among a pristine environment.(ABC South West: Kate Stephens)

Once the project is completed, a network of trails will surround the town.

The newest tracks, opened in July, sit just north of Collie in the Arklow Forest, while another 65 km of trails are planned just west in the Wellington National Park.

“That and the other facilities at Wellington National Park, really are going to establish that as sort of the queen piece of the mountain biking strategy for WA.”

Winding through the beach, forest and hills

The trails in Collie will be part of a wider network across the state.(Supplied: Australia’s South West)

A 2017 planning document by cycling body WestCycle found mountain bike trails were underdeveloped despite an almost 40 per cent increase in cycle tourism in the south-west. The Mark McGowan Government soon announced the funds for new trails.

“The investment in those trials will help meet that demand from our local riders,” said Matt Fulton, WestCycle chief executive.

It’s hoped the trails in Collie will attract a large number of tourists from across the world.(Supplied: Australia’s South West)

Though a large chunk of the funding is being spent in Collie, Mr Fulton said it was the variety of tracks planned across the Peel and south-west region that would attract the adventure tourist.

“So the plan here is whilst we’ve got pockets of projects going on in key locations at the moment, the overall plan is to create Western Australia as the mountain bike mecca of the world.”

Cycling enthusiasts say the mixture of forest, hills and ocean makes WA a unique destiny for adventure tourists.(Supplied: Australia’s South West)

Build it, and they will come

Mountain biking has grown in popularity in places such as Collie, an area which has been known for decades as a coal mining town.

“The amount of people we see in town on bikes now is phenomenal compared to two or three years ago,” Mr Mellegers from Collie Mountain Bike Club said.

The town is going through a significant change as the local coal mine and power stations wind down and new industries are sought.

Collie Shire president Sarah Stanley said the town was working hard to diversify the town’s economy.

“It’s one of the sectors that we’re really concentrating on.”

Mountain biking is growing in popularity in places like Collie.(ABC South West: Kate Stephens)

Councillor Stanley said high-quality mountain bike trails built close to the town would help attract the interstate and international visitors — once COVID-19 restrictions eased.

“A lot of those travellers are what we call the high-value travellers, so they tend to stay a little bit longer, and they tend to spend a little bit more,” she said.

The Blue Derby effect

While mountain bike tourism could never replace the number of jobs coal mining creates in Collie, it has been known to revitalise a town.

Those planning the Collie trails, which is set to finish within the next two and a half years, speak of Derby as an example of what could be replicated in WA.

The small community in north-east Tasmania was famously transformed from a dying mining town to a thriving tourist destination, thanks to the nearby Blue Derby mountain bike trails.

Councillor Stanley said while there were hopes for a similar result, the impact would be different.

“I think tourism and trials will bring a similar number of people to town, but Derby is a much smaller town than Collie,” she said.

Collie Shire president Sarah Stanley says tourism is an important part of the town’s future.(ABC South West: Kate Stephens)

Councils desperate to cash in

Mountain biking is not the only focus for the trail development in WA, with areas such as Dwellingup marketing itself as a multipurpose trail town.

The local council built a $3 million walking, riding and driving trail information centre next to its bike racks, pump park and rider rest area.

Dwellingup is marketing itself as a multipurpose trail town with walking, riding and driving trails.(ABC South West: Kate Stephens)

Rod Annear, an assistant director at WA’s Parks and Wildlife Service, the Government department planning most of the state’s trails, said trail use was booming.

The rise in popularity may bring an economic benefit, but Mr Annear said it would also give the next generation an appreciation of their backyard.

“Anything that gets them outdoors and creates a relationship with the environment is a fantastic thing,” he said.