They don’t call it the wet season in Tropical North Queensland for nothing. At the beginning of the year Lake Tinaroo was around 36% full... it started raining around the end of January and over the Easter long weekend it finally clocked over to 90% of its full supply level. That shows there’s been a whole lot of water falling in the region over the previous two months.
Itching to ride the trails, locals and visitors alike had high hopes that our beloved Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park (AFMTBP) would be open for business over Easter… but like other mountain bike parks in the region - Davies Creek, Smithfield and Townsville - were all closed.
To put it politely the AFMTBP sustained quite a few wounds as a result of recent rains. There was damage including to creek crossings, topsoil erosion, landslides and significant damage to the main fire road through the park. So, there’s a few reasons that it’s a good move to close the park to riders when it’s soaked including: the park has a better chance to retain the integrity of its trails, reducing additional erosion that may be caused by tyres and therefore trail maintenance required, unseen hazards such as rocks and debris hiding in murky water of the creek crossings, and rider safety. The small silver lining for mountain biking enthusiasts of the parks not being open is that not one bike had increased wear and tear from shredding wet and muddy tracks in Atherton this Easter.
There are certainly reasons that the parks temporary closure is not so good for local businesses. Although Atherton isn’t solely thriving because of mountain biking, like Blue Derby in Tasmania does, there is a growing appreciation of the economic benefits that come with creating Atherton as a mountain biking destination. A lot of people understand the area’s potential, although there are still quite a few who are a little slow to catch on…
Early adopters such as Woodlands Caravan Park and Bike and Bird Accommodation have cleverly capitalised on their proximity to the park and the growing numbers of people taking up mountain biking as a hobby or their chosen sport. The closure of the park, while necessary, means they have less happy customers who may have driven up and stayed from further afield only to find they couldn’t ride the trails. We often see groups of riders enjoying their coffees after a ride at Gallery 5 café – there would’ve been less latte sipping mountain bikers at cafes.
Do we have to just accept that mountain bike parks in tropics just can’t be relied on to be always open for business in the off season and even in the shoulder season? Or can the trails be built and maintained so they are able to withstand our tropical weather? This is a great question that we might just put to Ground Creations who are maintaining existing trails and building two new trails in the AFMTBP... At any rate, right now our world class trails are going to be in need of a lot of tender loving care.
While the AFMTBP might not be open all the time, there are so many other things to do on the Tablelands and TAG provide a number of adventurous activities.
In the wet season one of our favourite ride alternatives is to leave the red soil country behind for a day and head over the dividing range to the Watsonville area where there are wonderful riding options in the dry country. See our recent blog for more details and while you are on the website see what great bike, hike and kayak trips TAG offers. Words by Liliana Williamson (April 2018)