18 July 2023

Bike club proudly sharing its handiwork after wild ride to make park dream reality

| Siobhan O'Brien
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two men work on mountain bike track

Milton Ulladulla Mountain Bikers Club members Paul O’Brien (foreground) and Col Stevenson work on one of the elevated tracks within the terrain park on the NSW South Coast.

Two heads are better than one. Four eyes see more than two. It takes two hands to clap. Sayings such as those are around for a reason. They pinpoint the je ne sais quoi that occurs when people collaborate and shoot for the moon. That’s what happened recently for a crew of bike-riding enthusiasts from the Milton Ulladulla Mountain Bikers Club.

Rewind to 2016 when members of the club came up with a plan to construct an eco-friendly terrain park in the Woodburn State Forest. Around a year later, they engaged specialist landscaper firm Dirt Art to mastermind the blueprint for six kilometres of trails within the corner pocket of Princes Highway and Woodstock Road.

Club member Matt Forbes explains: “In the early stages, we attempted to create the park ourselves but the associated costs, time and effort made us realise pretty swiftly that it was pretty much impossible.”

Not to be dissuaded, the visionaries – intent on turning their dream into reality – cobbled together an application for $200,000 in state government funding.

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According to landscaper and club member Paul O’Brien: “We understood the importance of working within the guidelines of our NSW State Forest partners. Preserving trees and parts of the environment to create a terrain that sat lightly within the natural landscape was a given.

”Additionally, we were inspired by similar parks in Tasmania, Victoria and New Zealand, and envisaged that it would be a wonderful asset for our community.”

A few months later, the club was told its grant request had been successful. Matt, Paul and the other members were speechless.

“Gaining access to money like that is transformative for a creative concept. It’s a day that our club will never forget,” Matt said.

In November 2018, the then-NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian made it official when she and her colleagues Paul Toole and Shelley Hancock turned the first sod at the bike track.

bike track sod-turning event

Then-Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Shelley Hancock perform the official sod-turning duties while Paul Toole, mountain bike club members and state forest employees look on.

TrailScapes was engaged to transform Dirt Art’s designs into reality, and construction of the park began in June 2019. The mostly flat landscape morphed into a network of trails pitched at myriad skill levels, elevated wooden boardwalks, and a carpark area complete with a shelter and signage. But no-one could have envisaged what lay ahead. The Black Summer fires hit and razed the newly installed infrastructure.

“Everything that we’d worked so hard for was taken away in a single afternoon. But that’s the story of so many others in the area, all those houses and lives lost,” Paul said.

But these unshakable individuals wouldn’t be put off. They rolled up their sleeves and started again.

“We rebuilt the terrain park on a shoestring,” Paul said.

”But we couldn’t have done it without community support and their generous donations of time, skills and materials. It really renewed my faith in people.

”Now we have a great mountain bike park that’s family-friendly, easy to access and a great way to get outside and enjoy this beautiful part of the world.”

It sounds like the members of this club are privy to the saying that no man is an island.

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