Canberra is becoming quite the mountain biking destination, with more than a dozen trail centres scattered around the Bush Capital. The latest addition, Cotter Pines, has effectively doubled its offering in just six months and has just opened four new trails to the public.
Located northwest of the Canberra CBD, out past Stromlo, Cotter Pines is the result of a collaborative effort between the volunteer-based Kowalski Brothers Trailworks, Iconic Trails, Pedal Power ACT and ACT Parks and Conservation Service.
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Alan Vogt from Kowalski Brothers Trailworks has been involved in volunteer trail building around Canberra since the 1990s and has contributed to the trails at Stromlo, Kowen Forest, Arboretum, Sparrow Hill, Zoo Pines, Bruce Ridge, Majura Pines to name a few. His motley crew of volunteers set their sights on Cotter Pines in 2018, and began cutting trails mid-winter. A year-and-a-half and 800-hours of demanding volunteer building later, they had completed the first 8km loop.
“Cotter Pines is a young plantation with a bazillion branches and the thickest stands of blackberry I’ve ever experienced. It was really hard going. Starting from scratch as we were and with a massive task ahead, I was keen to look for a smarter way to work…,” says Vogt.
“…It started off as an idea in my own head — wanting to find a quicker way to transform Cotter — and grew into something real when Garreth Paton and I caught up for a beer, where he told me he was starting a trail company (Iconic Trails). We both loved the idea of exploring a collaborative approach to trail building — one where volunteer and commercial inputs come together in the design and crafting of trail,” he says
Working better together
Shortly after this collaborative approach was scrawled on the back of a bar napkin, Vogt learned that ACT Sport and Recreation was launching grants through the Capital Assistance Program to fund capital developments in sport and recreation facilities. The ACT Parks and Conservation Service, who are the responsible land managers, were supportive of the concept, and all the ducks were falling in a row.
“It turned out the Kowalskis would be unable to apply for a grant because we are not a club, business or other sort of legal entity — we are but a proud rabble — so I reached out to Pedal Power ACT to see if they would partner (with us),” Vogt tells Flow. “Pedal Power submitted the application, and in early 2020 we learned we had attracted a $25,000 grant to build three new trails at Cotter Pines.”
Together with Iconic Trails, Vogt and the Kowalski Brothers Trailworks worked like a well oiled machine to accelerate the speed at which trail could be laid down. Both teams collaborated on trail alignment and design, with volunteers going ahead to clear a path for the machinery, Iconic followed with diggers and compactors, and volunteers returned on the weekends to work on the finishing touches.
In the lead up to the opening of the first seven trails, Vogt and his partners learned they had won an additional $50,000 to expand the network further.
“Work on delivering these Stage 2 grant-funded trails was completed in June 2021 – resulting in the delivery of four cool new trails. Through this collaborative approach, we’ve managed to double the trail density in under six months — there is 16kms of track there now,” Vogt says.
Vogt also tells Flow they have just learned Cotter Pines has attracted an additional $25,000 in grant funding to add in a beginner and family-friendly loop, leaving from the main trailhead.
What are the Cotter Pines Mountain Bike Trails like?
The new trails which have just opened are Eagle Rock, Dazed and Confused, Sneaky Pete and Start Me Up and form the northwestern boundary of the network. Vogt tells Flow the trails at Cotter are a mix of old school hand-built trails, with a smattering of tight twisty corners, and of course, some machine built track designed to be railed at speed.
“The new trails are a cool merging of machine-made and hand-hewn and we’ve now got one of the nicest flow trails in Canberra hidden amongst the trees,” he says.
Vogt tells Flow Cotter Pines is currently tilted towards an XC riding style, however, there is scope for more enduro-style trails once a few areas nearby, like Mt McDonald, are made available.
“Cotter and Blue Range have been identified as a key part of the future for mountain biking in the Canberra region,” Vogt says. “I guess the work we are doing at Cotter Pines these past few years is us taking the initiative and making as strong a start as a bunch of motivated individuals can make, and demonstrating the outstanding potential of Cotter as a centre for trail-based recreation.”
For more info on Cotter Pines, or to find out when the next dig days will be, head over to the Kowalski Trail Works Facebook page