There’s no question that interest in mountain biking in New Zealand has exploded in the past decade, with clubs and trails popping up at every turn (and berm). With larger funding requirements for many well-known networks being taken on by bigger funding bodies, such as councils, Trail Fund is thrilled to continue supporting up-and-coming clubs in smaller ways in all corners of the country – including Waimate.
More commonly known for its local wallabies than winding mountain bike trails, the small town in South Canterbury now boasts a small but expanding trail network, thanks to committed volunteers from Whitehorse MTB Riders Inc. Aptly named in honour of the Whitehorse monument on the hill overlooking the town, where most of the trails can be found, this 50-strong club was one of three to receive an e-barrow in Trail Fund’s latest funding round.
“We were absolutely thrilled to receive an e-barrow from Trail Fund,” says club secretary Paul Buckley. “It will help us in our mission to continue to raise the profile and quality of our growing track network!”
Paul, who joined the Whitehorse MTB Riders Inc committee in 2018, credits several passionate locals with getting trail building off the ground in 2014, after a storm ruined some existing tracks in 2013.
“Dave Hanson and Ken Buckingham initiated the rebuilding of the tracks, starting with a 7km dual-use track up to the White Horse monument,” says Paul. “The trail, called the Big Easy, is suitable for beginner and intermediate riders and provides access to the rest of the tracks that have been built and re-built since then.”
Most of the hill block is owned by a local couple, Gary and Ann Dennison. Luckily for the community, they were very supportive of the concept, so it was more about making it official than convincing anyone.
Paul says the local community was also very supportive – funding for the initial trail was provided by the local Rotary Club, in addition to free or low-cost labour from local contractors. Combined with the help of the new club members, the trail was completed by mid-2015.
Something for everyone
Trail development in Waimate has been ongoing since then, with approximately 15km of purpose-built trails – ranging from beginner to advanced – now on offer.
“Once The Big Easy was complete, they began rebuilding the narrow, handbuilt trails that were there previously, nicknamed the DDTs,” says Paul. “The lower DDTs and an off shoot, Flying Falcon, are more advanced singletrack style, but they are still accessible to a large range of riders and are becoming more popular, especially as we upgrade the upper sections with new features.”
Once the DDTs were in reasonable condition, work began on another downhill section of three machine-built trails – Filthy Animal, Wriggly Beast and Twisted Monster.
“They’re all designed as intermediate grade, flow-style trails, allowing as many riders as possible to enjoy them, but with features and design that make them a lot of fun for more advanced riders too.”
Keen to encourage newbies to also take up mountain biking, the club has also invested time and money in entry-level trails in town.
“We are building about 2km of flatter skills trail for younger and more inexperienced riders, near the riverbed in Waimate itself,” says Paul. “While the initial build has been completed by a contractor thanks to funding from a council grant, the club will look after the building of smaller skills features and ongoing maintenance.”
Paul says the river trails is just one of the areas where the e-barrow will be an invaluable asset to the club.
“Back on the hill, we are now moving on to the development of steeper, more advanced grade 4/5 trails to broaden the range of trails. The shifting of material for features and berms becomes much more difficult in demanding terrain, and the e-barrow will be much easier than a standard one!”
The club also feels that the use of environmentally friendly, electric powered equipment really complements the ethos of another exciting development this year – Gary and Ann’s formation of the Point Bush Ecosanctuary Trust.
“The Trust was formed with the purpose of permanently gifting the hill block and public trails as part of an Ecosanctuary for future generations to enjoy,” says Paul.
“It will oversee the development of the main block, where our trails are located, as a conservation project with the aim of creating a predator-free environment for native birdlife and flora to flourish. The Trust is hugely supportive of our club's efforts to build and maintain the awesome network of trails that we have created in our small town as they form part of the vision.”