A few years ago, the Department of Conservation approached Trail Fund with an unprecedented query – would we be interested in collaborating with trampers and hunters in maintaining huts and tracks on public conservation land?
It was a bit of a leap for everyone involved but also the start of something great. Trail Fund was a relatively new organization, albeit with experienced people, and mountain bikers and trampers hadn’t always seen eye-to-eye on how tracks should be used. It’s safe to say there was a little suspicion on all sides.
The result of this, after many meetings and e-mails along the way, was the Outdoor Recreation Consortium – a partnership between Trail Fund NZ, Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) and the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association (NZDA). The creation of this new entity was key to obtaining funding from the Community Conservation Partnership Fund, and it received a significant amount. Through that, Trail Fund has been able to distribute and manage funding of many MTB projects, from the Missing Link project above Queenstown, to the Craigieburn Trails west of Christchurch, to Te Iringa track in the mid-North Island.
“Along the way, links between our organisations have grown and deepened,” says Trail Fund secretary and co-founder Nessa Lynch, who worked closely with FMC and NZDA on application and allocation processes. “We’ve realised that trampers, hunters, alpine recreationalists, and mountain bikers have more in common than we do differences.
“Many, if not all of us, are multi-recreationalists and, as a result, there’s been learning on all sides.”
The three partners have now moved to establish the Backcountry Trust, which formalises the relationship between Trail Fund, NZDA and FMC in facilitating and supporting volunteer-led maintenance of huts and tracks on public conservation land. This will allow centralised administration and management of grants.
Nessa Lynch and Guy Wynn-Williams (Christchurch- Ground Effect) will represent Trail Fund’s interests on the Trust. Three years of funding has been secured from the Department of Conservation.
What does this mean for volunteers? Trail Fund will continue its core business of funding, volunteer support and advocacy. This Backcountry Trust funding will be available for projects on public conservation land.
The Backcountry Trust’s first funding round will be in February 2018, and existing grants are transitioning to the Trust structure.
Have a project in mind?
Start thinking about any projects you might have on public conservation (DOC) land. The focus is generally on maintenance and upgrade of existing tracks rather than new builds, but the Trust is keen to hear about any ideas you might have. We’d love to hear from mountain bikers who would be keen to look after huts, as well as tracks. The vision of the Trust is that groups in an area would collaborate on projects.