Fox Creek Bike Park has a long history of mountain biking, which began as an organic activity and with the regular events based usage it became the premier riding destination in SA. Andrew Moylan is a former ForestrySA staff member and has been the driving force behind Fox Creek Bike Park. This is his historical account of how these trails have developed over the years.
The evolution of Cudlee Creek Forest Trails and Fox Creek Bike Park
by Andrew Moylan
Cudlee Creek Forest has been a destination for South Australian mountain bike riders since the early 1990s. The original trails were established by users and 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 as a result of closing trails in high quality native vegetation at Devil’s Gully Native Forest Reserve near Kersbrook. The Adelaide Mountain Bike Club (AMBC) regularly held races in the plantation trails at Cudlee Creek Forest Reserve. The Heysen Trail was also routed through Cudlee Creek, providing a critical link through the ranges.
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 appropriate 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 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 three of the current South Australian trail building companies (Trail Solutions, Trailscapes and Destination Trails). 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 also included the use of employment training programs such as Greencorps.
From the mid-2000s trail and infrastructure development was linked to a number of ForestrySA management plans designed to guide development and assist with securing State and Local Government grants. During this phase the trail network developed significantly with the success of grant applications and other funding opportunities. This was achieved by ForestrySA working in close collaboration with BikeSA, IMBA Australia, The Human Projectile MTB Club, Destination Trails and members of other mountain bike clubs and volunteers for the establishment of the majority of Green and Blue category trails. Two black diamond trails were also developed in the mid-2010s, as a result of ForestrySA working in collaboration with the Inside Line MTB Club, particularly club President Andrew Byrne. ForestrySA provided financial support to assist with accessing grants and the majority of these projects were funded from the ORS grants, smaller grants from the Adelaide Hills Council (AHC) and through a crowd funding process.
Since 2013 ForestrySA has worked with Jeff Konopka of sign design company Tekgraphix, trail designers (Nick Bowman and Marty Krieg) and volunteer Brad Slade from the Human Projectiles MTB Club to develop a new sign standard. This was installed by contractors and volunteers predominantly from the Human Projectiles MTB Club over the last five years. During this time ForestrySA also upgraded the Thomas Hill house for use as accommodation and worked with BikeSA to develop the Dirty Weekend 24 hour event location.
The Anderson Hill Winery located on Croft Rd close to the top car park has provided an opportunity for trail users to access their food and hospitality services and they have been a great supporter of the trail development for many years. The Cudlee Creek Café and the Cudlee Creek Tavern & Caravan Park have also benefited from and supported the trails.
Prior to the Cudlee Creek fire 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.
Over the last five years effort had been put into preparing event facility and other concept designs. 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 – has yet to realise it’s full potential as a mountain bike destination. Whilst devastating, the Cudlee Creek Fire has instigated a new phase of development and investment which will enhance 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.