Mountainbikers putting track access at risk

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:41 12/05/2014

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Mountainbikers jumping fences on to forestry lands closed for harvesting are jeopardising trail access for all Nelson mountainbikers, says Nelson Mountainbike Club president Paul Jennings.

Two mountainbikers were recently caught on forestry tracks, which were closed for work.

Jennings said the club worked hard to foster relationships with the Department of Conservation, the Tasman and Nelson councils, forestry businesses, and landowners to build trails, but 20 years of hard work was threatened because of a few people.

"The club wants to take responsibility for the rider to keep them safe and the forestry guys want to keep their work environment safe without killing anyone, which is a possibility, so we are just having to become stronger in terms of the trespassing," he said.

Jennings said the issue was the danger and damage done for all mountainbikers, who relied on the good will of the landowners for access to the land.

"What we are saying is we will be responsible if you let us in and build trails and when you tell us when we can't come in we will follow the rules and do what we can to support it," he said.

"It's a balancing act."

He compared biking through the working forestry land to biking through Port Nelson.

It would take only one injury for access to the tracks to be revoked, limiting where mountain bikers could go. While some bikers were trespassing on closed areas with clear signs, others were using trails on private land without permits - often not realising that permits were needed for safety reasons.

Jennings said the club could probably do more to make people aware as it had focused on enthusiasts who already knew how the mountain bike world worked. Club members spent the weekend visiting cycle shops, dropping off new temporary two-week permit books and speaking to shop staff about them so the information could be passed on to customers.

Permits, temporary or annual, are also available, more cheaply, by joining the club, which is one of the biggest in the country with up to 800 members.

The club had huge potential to grow, with an estimated 4000 to 6000 mountain bikers in the region. Jennings said it had evolved to embrace bikers of all levels.

‘Joining the club for $40 a year gave members access to a permit and supported the development and upkeep of the region's tracks.

Most of these tracks had been built by the club through thousands of hours of work from volunteers and careful negotiation with stakeholders.

Club funding came through membership fees, some contribution from the Nelson City Council, and profit from club races.

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It was always looking for more volunteers for working bees.

More members meant more resources, more money and ultimately more trails throughout the region, said Jennings.

MEMBERSHIP

$40 once a year ($35 for under 18, $65 for family) Annual forest permit (normally $40) Liability insurance cover Cheap entry to all club races 10 per cent discount at local bike shops.

Regular updates including trail status reports via newsletter Advocacy with land owners/managers/stakeholders.

100 per cent of the money from membership goes back into trail building.

- Nelson

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