What started as a one-woman initiative six years ago has gained a life of its own in the form of recent Trail Fund recipient, Raglan Mountain Biking Club – a 60-strong crew that’s since developed its own local network.
“I’m not saying it was easy,” says club treasurer Dirk De Ruysscher, who has been involved since the beginning. “It was definitely a long process, but we’ve gotten to the point where we have some local options and we plan to continue growing.”
While the club was in discussions with Waikato District Council about acquiring some land to build on, the crew made up for the lack of local tracks with trips to Taupo, Rotorua and Te Miro, near Hamilton.
Dirk says it was a great way to start building a mountain bike community in Raglan, and to avoid losing momentum while the consent process was underway.
“After four years, we came to an agreement with the council for the club to lease a section of Wainui Reserve, a 140-hectare farm park giving access to Ngarunui Beach,” says Dirk. “As soon as the papers were signed, we were fundraising non-stop. Within a year, we’d commissioned Empire of Dirt to build a 6km loop network, spread over eight different trails.”
While 80% of the trails are Grade 3, there is one shorter and easier kids’ loop, as well a few grade 4, and a narrow but steep Grade 5 option.
What might seem short and sweet to some is the perfect fuel for the mountain biking fire in Raglan, which faces the challenges of a fairly transient population and limited available terrain.
“Basically, what this small network has done is given us trails to call our own, and that in itself has helped pique interest in mountain biking and given people a solid reason to join the club – which supports our goal of building a larger trail network,” says Dirk.
In exchange for the lease, the club is committed to maintaining the network. It hosts maintenance working bees a few times a year, and in between Dirk enjoys tidying up the trails.
“We have enough people to volunteer, but we didn’t have the right tools, so we applied to Trail Fund for funding to purchase two wheelbarrows and a weedeater to help with maintenance. It’s the first time we’ve applied to Trail Fund and we were thrilled to be successful in our application.”
With the new equipment, Dirk and a crew of volunteers were able to extend Grade 4 trail Tin Man Goes Down, and undertake maintenance on the entrance trail, which requires a lot of maintenance as it leads to a number of trails and is co-shared by horse riders.
To help drive more interest in the park, and generate more membership revenue for tools going forward, the club held an inaugural mountain bike race – The Twilight Challenge – in the park, earlier this year.
“We had a great turnout and everyone really enjoyed the trails, so we’re planning to make it an annual event,” says Dirk.
Nothing Happens Overnight
For others who feel stuck in a consenting process with their local government bodies, Dirk recommends persistence and patience.
“There were times when it felt like we were getting nowhere, which can be very frustrating, especially as a volunteer, but it was worth it in the end,” says Dirk. “It also helps to have a cycling-minded council person on your side, so make sure your members realise the influence local elections can have.”
Words: Meagan Robertson
Images: Ken Hansen