University of Canberra Stromlo Forest Park (UC Stromlo) officially opened in 2007, but the land’s history stretches back to the Ngunnawal people, the First Nations people in the Canberra region.
In more recent years, UC Stromlo has witnessed the battle and survival of bushfires, hosted countless local, national, and international events, while Canberrans have watched it transform into the world class multi-use recreational sporting facility it is today. The land has a rich history and many communities have played a significant role in UC Stromlo’s heritage.
Mount Stromlo and Canberra is Ngunnawal country. Ngunnawal people are the traditional owners and caretakers of this region, as well as its first inhabitants. The neighbouring people are the Gundungurra to the north, the Ngarigo to the south, the Yuin on the coast, and the Wiradjuri inland. Ngunnawal people have lived and managed the landscape of the Canberra region since time immemorial.
Mount Stromlo has long been a popular place for astronomers to gaze at the stars with the Mount Stromlo Observatory located on the mountain but the Australian National University acknowledges that the Ngunnawal people were the first astronomers on Mount Stromlo. It is believed that Mount Stromlo was used as a physical and visual link to Ngunnawal cultural landmarks.
The land’s pastoral development began in the 1800s, with intensive tree planting taking place over the years to create the Stromlo Forest. The forest was opened to the public for recreational purposes in 1967 and soon became the home to equestrian riders, runners, walkers and mountain bike riders alike.
The Mount Stromlo Water Treatment Plant (WTP) was commissioned in June 1967, and was substantially upgraded after the 2003 bushfires. The Icon Water managed facility is used to treat water drawn from the Cotter and Murrumbidgee catchments, servicing much of Canberra.
Stromlo Forest has been home to many recreational groups. Thanks to its proximity to horse paddocks and riding schools, equestrian users have long called the pine forest home. Stromlo also saw the first ever Australian 24 hour mountain bike race in 1999, and has been home to numerous Australian Mountain Bike Championships over the years. Many Australian and international running greats called Stromlo Forest home in the 1980s and 1990s, and this legacy has remained.
After the Canberra firestorm of 2003 completely devastated Stromlo Forest, the ACT Bushfire Taskforce recommended the area be utilised to create a world-class multi-use, recreational sporting facility available to both recreational and professional users. Canberra distance running legend Robert De Castella was instrumental in the development process, with the world-class running track being named in his honour. As a key member of the Canberra Cycling Steering Committee, cyclist Stephen Hodge was invited to assist with advice for the Stromlo Masterplan. The result of this is UC Stromlo’s high quality Criterium Circuit, arguably the home of road cycling in Canberra. Out of this tragic fire event, UC Stromlo now boasts a one-of-a-kind community facility with exceptional infrastructure for a variety of users. UC Stromlo is managed by the ACT Government.
The Stromlo Leisure Centre was opened in 2020, giving the residents of Weston Creek and Molonglo regions long awaited access to a first-class aquatic and leisure facility. The centre, managed by the YMCA, is often used in conjunction with UC Stromlo to host multisport events such as triathlons and aquathlons.