The ACT should develop multiple new mountain biking trails to establish Canberra as the sport's capital in Australia, or else face the risk of being left behind by other cities, a new report has found.
A draft Canberra Mountain Bike Report, prepared for ACT Parks and Conservation, said further investment was essential for the ACT to remain competitive as a mountain biking destination.
Among the report's recommendations were new trails to be developed for the area between Stromlo Forest and Cotter Reserve, the Cotter Recreation Area and the Blue Range area at Uriarra Forest.
Currently Stromlo Forest Park is the only purpose-built mountain bike park in the ACT.
The report said consistent trail standards and high quality facilities were needed in order to attract more mountain bikers to the region.
"The lack of a coordinated approach to the development of mountain biking, trail maintenance and marketing is limiting the potential of the ACT to become an international mountain bike destination," the report said. "In order to increase participation and establish the ACT as an international mountain bike destination, it is vital that new trails are developed as the initial priority."
Mountain bikers contribute $30 million a year to the ACT economy, with many visitors coming from interstate.
Among the other recommendations laid out in the report was to position Canberra to pursue International Mountain Bicycling Association gold-level accreditation.
There are just seven locations in the world with such an accreditation, with only two in the southern hemisphere, both in New Zealand.
President of Canberra Off-Road Cyclists Matt Battye said other locations around the country have not only emulated Canberra's model for mountain biking infrastructure but improved on it.
"Canberra has always led the way and you see places around Australia in the last decade that have put in a lot of resources," Mr Battye said.
"In that effort to replicate things, you can find the genesis in Canberra."
The group's vice-president Darren Stewart said the upgrades and the new trails in the ACT the report has recommended would likely be enough to give Canberra a gold accreditation.
"It would give Canberra a point of difference," Mr Stewart said.
"What those new trails would enable is more of a back country opportunity and provide more of a longer day-trip type of route."
Mr Stewart said with visitor numbers to Stromlo Forest increasing year on year, a funding boost was needed to accommodate the growth.
The report recommended increasing the range of trails in the ACT, including routes that provide at least two days worth of riding.
There are also calls to attract major national and international mountain biking events as part of the ACT's 2025 major events strategy. Owner of mountain biking group Dynamic Motivation Mick Longhurst said attracting more mountain biking tourism opportunities in the ACT was essential in the wake of COVID-19.
He said many avid mountain bikers in Australia aim to go to destinations in New Zealand or Tasmania, rather than Canberra, due to the opportunities available.
"At the moment, if you're looking for a world-class destination and attract tourism at the same time, Stromlo Forest isn't it," he said.
"Although, in the report, Stromlo is still a key part part of it, the concept is to build a range of trails and venues.
"If we do nothing, then better parks will be built and we'll be at risk of tourists going elsewhere."