After navigating more than their fair share of complicating factors – from historic sites and hidden mine shafts to deterring Kauri dieback – Ride Coromandel has brought a decade-old vision, and biking in Coromandel Town, to life on the West Coast of the peninsula
The most recent recipient of a Trail Fund NZ e-barrow, Ride Coromandel has made the most of the past two tumultuous years, turning years of good intentions into bike park reality.
“For more than 20 years, Spirit of Coromandel Trust trustee Keith Stephenson said he wanted to build a bike park for the kids in Coromandel,” says bike park project manager Ally Davey, who says she was one of a dozen mountain bikers in the town until recently. “It took 20 years, but after forming the Spirit of Coromandel Trust and organising more than 70 events to raise the funds, we managed to finally turn some soil in spring 2020!”
The vision was to turn a local ex-landfill site near the town into a “vibrant recreational facility for all to enjoy”, featuring an all-weather asphalt pump track, a skills development area, three gentle descent trails, cross country trails and a children’s area.
“We managed to open the pump track and descent trails just before Christmas,” says Ally. “It was awesome to see the level of interest from everyone in the community, even though not many knew how to use it. People would turn up with no helmets or shoes and say ‘what do we do?’, so it’s been a real learning curve for the kids and parents, but now heaps of the local kids are getting into it.”
Unfamiliarity wasn’t the only hurdle Ally and her co-project manager Paul Johnson had to overcome. With grade three singletrack trails next on the list, the team had to consider several factors beyond the common compliance concerns.
“Our aim was to showcase some of our amazing native bush, biodiversity and areas of cultural heritage and areas of significance, but that didn’t come without some extra effort,” says Ally.
“There was significant liaison with the local iwi Te Patukirkiri Iwi, and we worked closely with the Department of Conservation. There was also a Kauri tree restoration area, and the trails are in a significant Historical area, so a Heritage New Zealand Authority was sought before the build could begin.”
To ensure the 10,000-plus Kauri trees – most of which were planted by the Trust – were protected, each tree location was GPS’d and the trail was mapped out at least 10m away from each on the downside of the track. The trail entrance also features a specialised wash station so riders aren’t moving soil into or out of the trail network – protecting the Kauri not only in Coromandel, but in their next riding destination.
Once the site of gold mining claims like ‘Just in Time’ and ‘Welcome Find’, mapping the trails also meant engaging an archaeologist to ensure no areas of significance were disturbed, and dodging old mine shafts!
“There were definitely some close calls, but let’s say it's a good incentive to ensure people stay on the track!” says Ally. “That plus the Kauri trees to protect and items of cultural significance that shouldn’t be disturbed.”
Come Ride Coromandel
Ride Coromandel is thrilled to have completed its skills park and the two cross country trails – Ara Tuatahi, which is 4.4km long, and Rickers Return, a 1.8km one-way loop that skirts the base of the Kauri forest – in time for summer 2021.
“We are so stoked to see more and more local people riding, and we even have people coming from Auckland and Rotorua to check out the trails, which has started driving some economic growth,” says Ally.
“But, more than anything, it’s a great place for the community to come together and enjoy something all their own. And, given our newest trail is more than 6km long in a sensitive area, having an e-barrow to help with maintenance will make a massive difference!”.