Cudlee Creek Forest Reserve has been a destination for South Australian Mountain Bike riders since the early 1990s.
The original trails, established by users, were not constructed to a recognised standard. More active management of trails and infrastructure development commenced in the mid-1990s and included the establishment of the Fox Creek Road carpark. The trail network at Cudlee Creek was prioritised when ForestrySA closed trails in high quality native vegetation at Devil’s Gully Native Forest Reserve near Kersbrook.
The Adelaide Mountain Bike Club (AMBC) regularly held races on trails in the pine plantations at the reserve. The Human Projectiles group started regular rides from 1993. The Inside Line MTB Club established during this period and set about developing a gravity trail network in the reserve. The Heysen Trail was also routed through Cudlee Creek, providing a critical link through the ranges.
The early 2000s
The State Mountain Bike Plan of 2001 recognised the forest as a key project for testing sustainable trail design principles in local soils and landscapes, as well as a project bringing key stakeholders together to work on common goals. This stage of development focused on improving the environmental sustainability of the original trail network and establishment of new trails based on International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) standards. It also included the development and installation of the Mawson Trail which was originally established through the Cudlee Creek Forest Reserve in the late 1980s. The new trail network was branded as the Mawson Network Trails and included the first generation of information and directional signage to provide better information and navigation opportunities for trail users.
Funding for this stage of development was from the Office for Recreation and Sport (ORS) with on-ground works coordinated by Bicycle SA (BikeSA) in collaboration with ForestrySA. Project work included trail construction workshops for volunteers and, to some extent, was a training ground for South Australian trail building companies. Trail development during this time was linked to a large-scale forest rehabilitation and revegetation project to convert areas of pine regeneration, which had established following the 1983 Ash Wednesday Bushfire, into higher value conservation areas. This provided a unique opportunity to establish new trails on environmentally sustainable gradients and included the use of employment training programs such as Greencorps.
During this period trail and infrastructure development was linked to several ForestrySA management plans designed to guide development and assist with securing State and Local Government grants. The trail network developed significantly with the success of grant applications and other funding opportunities achieved by ForestrySA working in close collaboration with BikeSA, IMBA Australia, The Human Projectile MTB Club, trail contractors and members of other mountain bike clubs and volunteers for the establishment of most of the green and blue category trails.
Two black diamond trails were developed in the mid-2010s, through ForestrySA working in collaboration with the Inside Line MTB Club. ForestrySA provided financial support to assist with accessing grants and most of these projects were funded from the ORS grants, smaller grants from the Adelaide Hills Council (AHC) and through a crowd funding process.
In 2013 a new sign standard was developed and installed by contractors and volunteers, predominantly from the Human Projectiles MTB Club, over multiple years. ForestrySA upgraded the Thomas Hill house for accommodation use and worked with BikeSA to develop the Dirty Weekend 24-hour event location. The Foxy Creakers, women’s MTB group, was formed by a bunch of women who love to ride and socialise, but who aren’t afraid to pick up a shovel and hit some trail maintenance.
The Anderson Hill Winery has been a great supporter of the trail development for many years, providing trail users with food and hospitality services. The Cudlee Creek Café and the Cudlee Creek Tavern & Caravan Park have supported and benefited from the trails.
Prior to the 2019 Cudlee Creek Bushfire the bike park successfully supported accommodation and numerous nature-based and recreation businesses. It hosted many community and recreation activities and events, which bring visitors to the area and provide economic stimulation to the local towns, as well as the broader Adelaide Hills community.
Although a significant amount of work has been achieved in the last 15 years the Cudlee Creek Forest trail network – now known as the Fox Creek Bike Park – is beginning to reach its full potential as a mountain bike destination of national significance.
Whilst devastating, the 2019 Cudlee Creek bushfire instigated a new phase of development and investment which has enhanced ForestrySA’s strategic purpose to support multi-use forestry with flow on effects of a bike economy on the local community, the fire recovery and State’s tourist and economic benefit, with the Fox Creek Bike Park at its core.
A collaborative approach has been adopted to deliver social, economic, and environmental outcomes at a critical time in the fire recovery period, and for the disaster resilience and long-term sustainability of recreation and forestry in the Mount Lofty Ranges.