THE potential of Blackbutt Forest as a mountain bike facility needs to be harnessed, according to Shellharbour Deputy Mayor Paul Rankin.
Last week, Wollongong City Council identified a site at Cringila worthy of further consideration as a mountain biking venue, but additional funding and research will be needed, as well as discussions with Sydney Water to explore options for using adjoining land.
In the meantime, Blackbutt Forest has emerged as another option as a venue for the Wollongong Mountain Bike Club.
The club was based at Appin for more than a decade, but the group found itself homeless last year after the Tharawal Local Aboriginal Land Council denied riders permission for continuing use of the land.
The club plans to hold an exhibition ride and open day in Blackbutt Forest at the end of January or early February to show Shellharbour council and the community what the sport is about, with Cr Rankin backing the club's plans.
Cr Rankin said he would love the club to hold regular events in the forest.
"It is already a permissible use to have cycling through the forest," he said.
"I think it would be great to have a club in there to help maintain tracks and look after the forest.
"As a council, there is not much we need to do."
Cr Rankin said there were three areas in the park that were protected and mountain bikers would need to avoid.
Two of these areas contained endangered flora, while the third was home to a protected bat colony.
"The bushland makes it attractive for mountain bikers, but it is also a good area for spectators to watch as cyclists would come out into open space on six or seven occasions.
"There are benefits for tourism if we manage to get a large event there and having the club based in Shellharbour would see a lot more local riders join."