The history of Stromlo Forest Park stretches across time, beginning with the first European settlers through to the battle and survival of fires and continuing to present day and the transformation into the world class multi-use recreational sporting facility it is today.
The first European settlers visited the Limestone Plains in the 1820s and pastoral development proceeded quickly.
There were soon large pastoral holdings covering all of the area of present day ACT. In 1910 the first telescope was installed on Mount Stromlo and a year later the Federal Capital Territory was declared after a long search for an acceptable site for the national capital. In 1913 the Federal government started resuming pastoral land around Mount Stromlo, including Glenloch and Yarralumla Stations, to make way for the new city.
Intensive planting of trees began, in order to provide a scenic backdrop for Canberra and control soil erosion resulting from decades of over-grazing by sheep, rabbits and kangaroos. The Stromlo area was planted with Monterey Pine (Pinus Radiata), which was considered to be a potential basis of a commercial industry for the ACT.
In 1924 the Mt Stromlo Observatory was officially established as a solar observatory. Within two years the Stromlo Forestry Settlement on the Cotter Road was established to provide housing and facilities for Forestry workers. At the time, the development of the Settlement reflected the increasing significance of the forestry industry to the ACT economy.
Around the same time, smallholdings lying roughly between the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee Rivers were allotted to WWI soldier settlers. These holdings formed the basis of many of the rural holdings along the Cotter Road today.
In December 1951, 450 ha of pine trees at Stromlo were burned in one of the first recorded big bush fires and several observatory buildings were destroyed.
After the fire and as a result of the expanding population and the proximity of Stromlo to the developing suburbs of Weston Creek, the forest was opened to the public for recreational purposes in 1967. The Forest quickly became an important recreational resource for many Canberrans’, particularly those in Weston Creek.
In time, as the economic base of Canberra changed, the long-term viability of the forestry industry in the ACT became a regular topic of discussion. With popular recreational activities such as running, walking, dog sledding, bike riding, horse riding and the occasional car rally, Stromlo Forest was becoming a hive of activities for the community.
In 1988, as part of the celebration of the Australia’s 200th birthday, Stromlo Forest was integrated into the Bicentennial National Trail (BNT) the longest marked non-motorised self-reliant multi-use trekking route in the world, stretching an extraordinary 5,330 kilometres from Cooktown in tropical North Queensland, to Healesville in Victoria. The BNT links up with the ACT equestrian trail system to provide access from Stromlo to Equestrian Park at Curtin and other riding areas in north and south Canberra.
During Christmas 2001, a bush fire again destroyed 500 ha of pine forest in Stromlo valued at several million dollars. In January 2003, a devastating fire that swept across Canberra completely destroyed the Stromlo Forest. After the fires, the ACT Government Bushfire Recovery Taskforce was established to advise the ACT Government, provide leadership for the recovery and act as a bridge between Government agencies and the community.
One of the recommendations from the Taskforce was to establish a world-class multi-use, recreational sporting facility available to both recreational and professional users. From this simple beginning, Stromlo Forest Park now boasts a one-of-a-kind community facility with exceptional infrastructure for a variety of users.