Trail Stories: Navigating Nelson

Trail Stories: Navigating Nelson

Nelson’s epic trail network becomes more accessible to out-of-towners thanks to improved signage

Looking to ensure local and visiting mountain bikers find the tracks they’re looking for, Nelson Mountain Bike Club (NMTBC) applied for a Trail Fund grant to improve signage at Sharlands Forest, a popular trail network located 5km from the CBD. Building on the success of similar signage put in at Codgers MTB Park (also assisted by a Trail Fund grant), this is part of NMTBC’s broader plan to improve signage on all the trails it manages.

“Nelson has an amazing network of trails to suit all abilities, but we've done an excellent job in the past of keeping them hidden away (unless you're a local),” says NMTBC committee member Paul Jennings. “At best you'd find a marker telling you that you'd successfully navigated your way to the trail start, and that was about it.”

Looking to change that, the club did a full audit of all the trails managed by Nelson Mountain Bike Club and realised that, to signpost the entire network to a standard consistent with the best in NZ, several hundred signs would need to be installed.

“It’s a fairly big job for a club of volunteers, but with the support of Trail Fund and our members, we’re making great progress,” says Paul.

According to NMTBC member Belinda Crisp, Sharlands is particularly in need of signage.

“It’s one of the more confusing areas for riders to find their way around, much of the area is out of mobile service range, and it’s been particularly busy recently due as logging operations affecting access to Codgers MTB Park,” says Belinda.

A mix of plantation pines and native bush, Sharlands runs through a wonderfully varied valley with a maximum elevation of around 450m. It’s home to around 30 trails, from easy Grade 2 family-friendly options to three full-on DH trails and grade 5/6 technical singletrack.

“Trails like Supplejack, Putakari, Maitai Face, Broken Axe, Kaka and Keyboard Warrior are among the best known,” says Paul. “However, it's an excellent area for all ages and abilities - no matter the weather - and showcases some of the best trails in the region. Because of its size, and the fact that it has several different climbing roads, it's not that easy to navigate, so quality signage is a must.”

According to Paul, the biggest challenge with the signing project has been the scale of it. To do it properly, each trail requires at least four signs, and many require up to ten due to their length and various intersections.

“This can create headaches in terms of planning and getting the right data for each sign, but luckily for us, we have an awesome team managing this project and they are doing a brilliant job,” says Paul. “Once the signs are created, the big job of installing them kicks in. In Sharlands alone, we need more than 150 signs, and we’re extremely grateful to have the 'Trail Saints' crew stepping up to help with this process.

“The goal is to ensure that visitors to Nelson, or those new to our sport, can safely navigate their way to and from any of our trails and be assured that the grading is consistent across our entire network. In turn, we hope this encourages more people to do a bit more exploring.”

All Sharlands trails have now been signposted, so make sure to check it out for yourself (now that you can find your way around!)