14 November, 2023
Cycling vision of the future
THE Tablelands is sitting on a “gold mine” of tourism opportunities when it comes to mountain biking, with a group of avid local bikers pushing to expand the existing 18 trails into 50.
The Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park has the potential to become a major tourism drawcard for the region, according to Off Camber Mountain Bike Tour group owner Leah Stevenson, who has put her hand up to elevate the town’s tourism reputation.
With over 55km of mountain bike trails in Atherton alone, the goal is to make it over 100km and put the town on the map next to destinations like Blue Derby in Tasmania.
A Mountain Bike Advisory Committee has been established at Tablelands Regional Council, and several meetings have already taken place to begin the expansion of the tracks in Atherton and, potentially, Davies Creek.
An experienced traveller and mountain biker herself, Leah has travelled across Australia and New Zealand following top-tier trails and said she saw significant potential in Atherton.
“We are working towards developing a mountain bike strategy that will grow the mountain bike park,” she said.
“It’s really important for our region from a tourism perspective because the more trails we have, the more people can explore.
“The more area to explore, the longer visitors need to stay, so they will need accommodation and food, so they eat out and get groceries.
“The thing about mountain bikers is they tend to do their holidays in big groups, whether that be in tours or with friends and family and drawing groups to the region is really good for developing economic prosperity.”
Since being invited to join the advisory committee, Leah has had conversations with TRC, Queensland Parks Wildlife, traditional owners and Member for Hill Shane Knuth to start actioning plans to grow the tracks.
She said once they solidified their strategy and gained the right support, they could start building, extending and upgrading the existing trails.
As a strong advocate for all kinds of biking on the Tablelands, Mayor Rod Marti expressed his full support for the strategy and hopes to see it grow beyond the Forest Mountain Bike trails.
He hopes that all trails, whether mountain bike trails or formed gravel trails such as the rail trail, can meet and create a circuit of trails that go beyond Atherton.
“The benefit for us is it’s an extremely strategic asset location for Atherton because people will often come to the town to ride the trails and will just park in the main street and ride to the trails within five minutes,” he said.
“And then they ride five minutes back to their vehicle in the middle of town. You can basically ride your bike down to Priors Creek and the rail trail.
“It’s pretty extraordinary to have it so close to our CBD.”
In Mareeba, Davies Creek and Dinden National Park has several mountain biking trails going up to Copperlode Dam and Lake Tinaroo.
Mareeba Shire Council Local Tourism Organisation chair, Cr Lenore Wyatt, said she was keen to see “adventure tourism” take off in the region, with ideas in the pipeline to connect their trails to TRC’s.
She said that the “Instagram-able” moment captured on the trails is what draws people to places such as Mareeba and Atherton, and she is keen to see more influencers in the region capturing the growing circuits.
“One of our pillars in our action plan is to promote adventure-based tourism, and people get FOMO when they see snaps on the trails and think ‘oh my gosh I need to go there and experience that’ so we are hoping to get influencers to maybe showcase our region.
“In relation to the trails, I am really excited as a councillor about the rail trail and I would love to see the connectivity between us and TRC, so watch this space. I can’t say much yet but just watch this space because there could be an opportunity for that in the near future hopefully.”
To help support the expansion of the Atherton trails, the Mountain Bike Advisory Committee is encouraging members of the public to send letters of support to Queensland Parks and Wildlife and to their State and Federal members of parliament.