This pretty exciting press release showed up today. Although it's a bit wordy and doesn't actually mention the words mountain biking at all, the $700,000 in question will have a pretty serious effect on our MTB trail networks. Check out the quick Q & A with Trail Fund chairperson Ben Wilde down below for the low down on what this announcement means for you.
A consortium representing over 30,000 trampers, hunters, mountaineers and mountain bikers welcomed Minister of Conservation Dr Nick Smith’s announcement this evening of major funding to assist its volunteers maintain backcountry huts, tracks and facilities.
Speaking on behalf of the NZ Outdoor Recreation Consortium, which comprises the Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC), the NZ Deerstalkers’ Association (NZDA) and Trail Fund NZ, NZDA president Bill O’Leary said the $700,000 grant awarded today from the Community Conservation Partnerships Fund would be augmented by donations and volunteer work to the value of at least $156,000 by members of the consortium and other groups.
“This grant will kick-start practical, on-the-ground projects to maintain and restore our outdoor heritage,” said Mr O’Leary. “It will assist track cutting, and help maintain, build and repair backcountry huts. It will encourage more people to enjoy our natural environment.”
Mr O’Leary joined with FMC president Robin McNeill and Trail Fund NZ chairperson Ben Wilde in praising DOC’s community partnership approach to work on conservation and recreation projects.
“This is a game-changing approach that allows backcountry users get involved with looking after the facilities they enjoy using and their volunteer effort means that more work can get done than DOC could manage alone.”
The Community Conservation Partnerships Fund - Pūtea Tautiaki Hapori provides funding to community-led conservation groups for natural heritage and recreation projects in New Zealand on public and private land and waters.
About the Outdoor Recreation Consortium The NZ Outdoor Recreation Consortium was formed in 2014 as a partnership between FMC, NZDA and Trail Fund NZ to maintain and enhance back-country facilities and attract a wider range of users to enjoy and look after these special places. The Consortium will work on behalf of a wide range of user groups in the outdoors to manage and distribute the funding for the benefit of all who enjoy the New Zealand backcountry.
How does this announcement affect the everyday mountain biker? This funding is going to help Clubs do even more of the good work they are already doing to keep their local rides open. That means riders are going to see more frequent vegetation control, faster response to storm damage and less water damage to affected DoC trails they ride already. In other cases they are going to find new trails opening up that were previously not suitable or perhaps closed to mountain biking due to technical issues with the trail. In some cases that might include creating new sections of trail to make a track work for riders. This is all going to be done in consultation with the local community and the Department of Conservation. But the big difference is that the Clubs will have the funding they need to support the work that in many cases they have wanted to do for years.
When will we see an effect of this funding? We will get the funding out to those on the ground over the next few months. Some of the work will start immediately after that. Riders will hopefully see the positive difference that this is making over this coming summer, but that is up to the Clubs who adopt the trails.
Will we see diggers on tracks and what some people call dumbing down? We don't think so, that's because we'll be working closely with the participating Clubs to make sure we keep the character on the trails they will be maintaining. In some cases where trails have degraded away from their intended grade there might be some repairs done to bring them back to grade. But overall we are actually expecting less 'dumbing down' due to closer mountain biker involvement in some pretty iconic dual trails around the country. That happens because we will be enabling more rider involvement in their local back country trails through the Clubs. For the projects asking for larger amounts of funding we will be making sure that we link them up with an experienced trail builder from outside the immediate area who can help consult on the proposed changes. Trail Fund NZ is also working on a new training programme that will help Clubs make sure their teams are up to speed with how to build trails that retain their character while meeting the expected standards and grades. Historically trampers and mountain bikers haven't seen eye to eye. What's changed to get everyone working together? It started from the top with Nick Smith, the Minister of Conservation, making it clear he wanted to see more cooperation between outdoor groups. That got us all to the table to figure out what we had in common rather than what we disagreed on. It quickly became clear that there is more that we agree on than we don't and that also there has been a blurring of lines that has happened the past few years in terms of membership. Many people are members of tramping clubs but ride mountain bikes and hunt, hunters are using mountain bikes as transport to get further into the back country and many who identify as mountain bikers are also hunters and trampers. Lots to do and there will be points of difference but a common appreciation of the NZ back country and a real willingness to get on with the job will keep things going in the right direction.