As Trail Fund celebrates five years of funding trails nationwide, we look at where we’re at and where we’re going
People often say it’s worth taking the road less travelled, but they don’t often mention who builds it.
In New Zealand, many trails worth taking are built thanks to the long hours put in by volunteers and those who support their efforts financially. However, taking a person or company’s desire to support trail building, and turning it into something concrete (or in this case, dirt) isn’t always the most straight forward process.
This is why Trail Fund NZ was created. We are a not-for-profit organisation, run solely by volunteers, supporting the development and maintenance of publicly available, environmentally sensitive and sustainable mountain bike-accessible trails in New Zealand. We are committed to providing funding for and education on trail building.
Since Trail Fund was launched five years ago, we’ve distributed more than 120 grants – totalling more than $300,000 – to a wide variety of mountain bike trails. From Thames to Taupo to Wanaka to Bluff, from Grade 5 singletrack to skills parks, we’ve tried to cater for riders of all abilities around the country
This is a fantastic achievement that everyone who has contributed to Trail Fund can be proud of, including sponsors, volunteers and anyone who has purchased merchandise or come on a Trail Fund course.
Over the years, Trail Fund has adapted its approach to suit the challenges trail builders faced. While providing funding through merchandise sales has remained constant, work has also included managing funding for mountain bike trails on conservation land through the former Outdoor Recreation Consortium, developing and delivering Trail Fund’s trail building courses and advocating on behalf of mountain bikers to Government.
Highlights this year
- Partnering with NZ Enduro for their Raffle. This was a great opportunity to extend the reach of our brand and awareness of what we do. We look forward to groups applying to this fund to do work on these trails at the top of the South Island.
- Huge turns outs at Specialized Dig Days and Trail Crew courses. These events help to educate the riding community that the vast majority of their favorite trails come from the hard work of volunteers.
- Growing our partnership with 8 Wired. The company’s Ales for Trails tour gets bigger every year and this year it stepped up with the Hoppy Trail Fund Ale that launched in mid-October. Approximately $1 a litre from the sale of these cans will go into our General Grant Fund and be made available for future funding rounds.
- The Tools/PowerBarrow round, sponsored by Flick Electric, was a big hit, attracting more applicants than any other round this year. Our thinking was that yes, money is important, but sometimes going through the process of getting quotes and filling out application forms is going to deter groups, particularly newer and smaller groups. We will definitely be running the tool round again next July.
- Continuing to build our brand and raise funds through the Trail Fund water bottles thanks to our partnership with Camelbak.
We shall see. We are seeing more and more projects transition from being a small band of volunteers on the tools, to working with land managers, funders and professional trail builders to build world-class trails up and down the country. Many of these projects got their start and a helping hand from Trail Fund in their early days, but now their funding needs extend far beyond what we as volunteers have the capacity to provide.
For us, Trail Fund is designed to be a bit like a super hero – here when you need us. It appears this is still the case – sales indicate there’s still a strong desire from mountain bikers to contribute by purchasing Trail Fund-branded gear, and applications for funding continue to pour in. Advocacy is another area we have been involved in, and one that has become a focus for the coming year.
As a community, mountain bikers need to be aware that if someone from our community is not at the table, then there is the chance that we will miss opportunities, in particular when it comes to public conservation land. A good example is the Bay of Plenty Conservation Management Strategy (CMS), which is soon to be up for review. If changes are not advocated for now, it will be another 10 years before that CMS is reviewed. We believe that this is such an important topic that one of our goals for 2018/2019 is to first educate the community, then ask for their feedback.
With this in mind, we will be writing a series of articles on the topic. We will look at the history of advocacy (with prime examples such as the reopening of the Heaphy for MTB access), the current climate and what opportunities there are to be involved. We look forward to diggers and riders getting involved in this and hearing your views on the various directions we could take over the coming year.