The Bay of Islands conjures up romantic images of Pohutukawa clad islands fringed with sandy white beaches, dolphins playing amid kayaks paddling around the bay. The Waitangi Treaty grounds and the newly built museum are the big attractions for kiwis and overseas visitors driving three hours north of Auckland. But what if there was also a mountain bike park? For the thousands of riders that congregate in hot spots like Rotorua, Nelson and Queenstown, that would be a real reason to venture north. Thanks to the big dreamers at Focus Paihia, an award winning community organisation, that dream is rapidly turning into reality.
Southstar Trails has had their team of six trail builders and three excavators building trails in the Waitangi Endowment Forest since mid-October. Already there’s 15km of trail built and there’ll be at least another 10km by the time the park opens for is first visitors later this summer. That’s if the carpark approvals and construction can be completed by then!
Focus Paihia have drawn together many parties to make the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park happen. The land in the Waitangi Endowment Forest was gifted to the people of NZ by Lord Bledisloe, and a portion of the money made from the ongoing forestry operation goes to fund the operation of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The land is managed by the Department of Conservation, who in turn contract a commercial forest manager, there are two local Iwi groups with Treaty claims on the land that provide representatives, as well as a horse riding concessionaire, approving every trail that Southstar designs. It’s even more amazing that this incredible feat of coordination is performed for Focus Paihia by local volunteer Tiffany Holland, a mother of two. Tiff and her physio husband Robin are keen mountain bikers, regularly travelling with bikes and kids all around NZ to ride – they can’t wait to have these trails available on their doorstep.
The initial trail design and development has focused on the family friendly grades with most of the trails built grade 2 (easy) and 3 (intermediate), and one grade 4 (advanced). The downhill trails milk the most out of the 100m of vertical elevation available providing a lot of fun for a small amount of climbing. The aim is to have one hill climb and six top to bottom downhill trails finished by late March 2016, all in Zone 2. Plus there is also a cross country loop aimed at families. All up there are five zones to be developed so there’s plenty more trail development planned in the years to come.
This is an exciting time for mountain bikers with this new riding destination being rapidly created. When you combine the trails with the culture, history and scenery around Waitangi and Paihia, this is going to become a must-visit destination.
You can follow along with pictures of the trails being built on the Southstar Trails Facebook page