Trail Stories: Southland steps up

Trail Stories: Southland steps up

Te Anau’s small but committed MTB club has big plans for the area and, thanks to grant from Backcountry Trust, trail design is underway

If it doesn’t exist, build it yourself. While this quote may not have been born in Southland, it certainly resonates with the people who live there, particularly one of the recent Backcountry Trust funding recipients, Te Anau Cycling Incorporated (TACI).

With many keen mountain bikers as members, TACI has been working to develop a local trail network for years.

Over the past five, the group helped develop the Perenuka MTB Park, a 7km network of trails on private land with stunning views over Lake Te Anau and the mountains of Fiordland and recently built a small 2km cross country loop near the Kepler track. Perenuka is accessible to the public for a good-will gold coin donation and somewhat famous for its unique features, it’s become popular enough to garner interest from some of the town’s younger mountain bikers. However, it’s also highlighted the need for more advanced trails.

“These developments have honed our volunteer skills and capacity but, in reality, they fall a little short of the standard of MTB trail the most of our members would like to ride.,” says club secretary James Reardon. “We were also concerned that, without improved MTB options within easy distance of Te Anau, our younger mountain bikers will miss out on opportunities to progress their skills.  Currently most members are travelling to Queenstown or Alexandra to get their fix, which is crazy when you look at the landscape we live among in Te Anau."

This realisation led to the creation of Fiordland MTB, a subgroup of TACI, which set out to identify the nearest accessible lands with suitable topography for high-quality trail development.

“We were inspired by our riding experiences in places like Nelson, Craigieburn and Wairoa Gorge, so we needed somewhere with decent elevation and heaps of potential.”

Opportunity found

The search ended when the club identified the opportunity that lay in Snowdon Forest Park, a large area of Public Conservation Land that borders Lake Te Anau and the Fiordland National Park and is adjacent to the popular Mavora Lakes. With a provision for mountain biking already in the Conservation Management Strategy, the club’s next step was to obtain a memorandum of understand from DOC and identify areas with trail building potential.

“We’ve identified four but we’re keen to focus initially on the Henry’s Creek site,” says James. “With a beech forested pair of ridges that rise from 280 to 500m in just over a kilometre – on a ridge that is more than 6km long with rooty, rocky, well-drained slopes – we’re confident that we can build a series of Enduro style loops that attracts both local and visiting mountain bikers. We will also finish some minor adjustments to a great little 4.5km loop at Boyd Creek that's a fun and techy XC trail.

“Our goal is to build the same quality of challenging riding found in Wairoa Gorge, but in beautiful beech forest with stunning views. It's a bit of a lofty goal, but you might as well aim high."

Although the small but dedicated volunteer trail building crew was ready and eager to begin, the club applied to the Backcountry Trust to help fund some professional support.

“While our skills as trail builders have improved, we decided the smartest option would be to bring in an expert trail designer to help us flag the very best lines and spend some time with the core dig-crew members to provide some guidance on how we get into the work.”

James and the club were thrilled to learn they’d been approved for funding, and the plan is to get straight to work come summer.

“We are so thrilled and grateful to the BCT to have this opportunity and we have some very encouraging support from the community and local businesses – we can’t wait to see what can be achieved and look forward to the day when people purposely bring their bikes to Te Anau for some epic New Zealand-style riding!

About Perenuka (pictured)

The Perenuka mountain bike park is a little marvel, lots of fun, and quite unique. The trails meander around a paddock with stunning views over Lake Te Anau and the mountains of Fiordland.

First up you ride up through trees past the parking area alongside the Sinclair Road and out onto the paddock along a trail called Rattle Ya Dags. A nice climbing trail called Ewe Turn then leads up to the top of the hill, where riders are treated to an incredible view before choosing between two bermed descents (Wuffler and Auger) or two fun little downhill trails that take in some unique automotive features, with Woolly Jumper featuring a Subaru Brumby and Pork Pie featuring a mini jump feature. Yabba Dabba Doo then takes you back to the entrance/exit with an optional fun little feature called 'I'm Rock I Am'. They are easy or intermediate trails. Auger is a good track to go down and Woolly Jumper is even better if you like a bit of air. It's a little more challenging and you get to ride over the top of a car. The Pork Pie trail also has a car feature! It's a little bike park with a big sense of humour.