Riders rally for Cockatoo MTB trails

Cockatoo mountain bike enthusiasts gathered on Sunday 2 May to show their support for the establishment of a MTB track in their town. PICTURE: TAYLAH EASTWELL

By Taylah Eastwell

Numerous Hills locals have formed a committee pushing for the establishment of a set of mountain bike trails in Cockatoo.

The newly formalised Cockatoo Mountain Bike Trails committee recently began reaching out to different groups and authorities in hopes of kicking off a discussion on a new mountain bike area for the scenic village.

One of the driving forces behind the push, Ben Anable said there has always been a lack of short, quick mountain bike trails with “jumps and berms” in the local area.

“There is nothing in the whole Cardinia Shire that caters for what we are trying to do here. Lysterfield Lake is the closest place for trails, but that is focused more on cross country, the trails we want would be around 1km long with a two to three minute descend at the bottom then you’d ride back up and go back down again,” Mr Anable explained.

Having got back into bikes last year during Covid-19 lockdowns, Mr Anable said there had been a huge resurgence in people getting back on their bike.

“You couldn’t buy bikes, they were sold out or you couldn’t get one for under $1500 because they were in such high demand,” he said.

Mr Anable said the potential for local businesses, cafés, bakery’s and AirBnB’s in Cockatoo and surrounds was “huge” if the track were to go through.

“Harcourt, south of Bendigo, recently built a mountain bike system and have had 31,000 visitors in 18 months. They estimate the spending of $1.6 million locally after the trails went in.

“There’s another place in Derby, a sleepy little town in Tassie, they spent three million on some trails that now average 30,000 visitors a year and puts around $31 million back into the Tasmanian economy,” he said.

“If we could pull a bit more tourism up into the Hills, the potential for community benefit is huge. It’s a long term trend.

The trails Mr Anable and the Cockatoo Mountain Bike Trails committee are proposing are considered “stepping stone” tracks.

“We’re not trying to be the biggest, best and greatest, but more like a stepping stone, with a bit of something for everyone,” he said.

“What we’re looking at is basically being able to start on the first trail which might just be a casual zig zag down the hill, and then moving onto the next trail that’s a little steeper with a few roller jumps, and then progressing down the line to the last trail.

The idea behind the proposal is that the trails could cater for anyone interested in getting on a bike, with mountain biking being one sport that anyone can have a go at, with strong mental and physical health benefits.

“It would prompt people to have stronger community connections with their environment in both Cardinia and the broader Yarra Ranges.

“If you live in the Hills, we have basketball, footy, netball, soccer, tennis, lots of ball sports, but not much infrastructure for anything other than ball sports. If you’re a teenage kid and don’t fit into that category of wanting to play those sports, there’s not much else on offer,” Mr Anable said.

The site the committee is proposing for the trails is off Bailey Road, opposite the Wright Forest Bushland Reserve.

Mr Anable said the committee was thankful to be receiving auspice assistance from the Eastern Dandenong Ranges Association to help bring the vision to life.

For more information head to Cockatoo Mountain Bike Trails on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/455359765841129