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Mountain Biking on Track in Mackay

By Tammy Laval

MOUNTAIN BIKING ON TRACK FOR BIG THINGS

Just announced was the Council purchase of land in Finch Hatton to deliver a start on the Mackay Region Mountain Bike Park. Finch Hatton will become the primary trail town for this world-class mountain bike trail network. The land purchase is a solid stake in the ground for the region determined to see this transformative tourist product come to fruition, with Mountain biking tipped to reach new heights in the Mackay region.

The potential of the region to become a signature mountain biking destination has been highlighted in a strategy prepared by the local council, & lead by Councillor Justin Englert.

The possibility of developing a nationally and internationally significant mountain bike park based around Eungella and Finch Hatton is part of that strategy.

An ordinary meeting of council today endorsed the Mackay Region Mountain Bike Strategy, prepared by Otium Planning Group in partnership with World Trail.

As a part of the strategy of the ‘Economic Development’ program will begin the preparation of a business case and feasibility study for a mountain bike park in the upper Pioneer Valley.

Mayor Greg Williamson said the strategy estimated such a bike park around Eungella and Finch Hatton could attract up to 18,000 extra visitors a year.

He said the estimated direct economic benefit from such a surge in visitation was more than $6 million for the region’s economy.

“The strategy identified gaps in the Queensland and Australian mountain biking markets and how the Mackay region is ideally suited to fill those needs.

“Our main advantages, particularly in the Eungella-Finch Hatton area, include the stunning natural environment and excellent elevation.

“There is also substantial trail land available in that area and it would suit all mountain biking disciplines and levels.”

Any developments of infrastructure will be subject to future funding submissions and council budget considerations.

The Mackay Region Mountain Bike Strategy was one of two strategies endorsed by today’s ordinary meeting.

The Mackay Sport and Recreation Strategy (2018-2028) was also adopted.

Mackay hosted the Mountain Bike Australia XCO (Cross Country) National Cup Round and UCI Class 2 (C2) Event in 2019, and again for July 2020.  Read how Mackay rates amongst the sporting write-ups, as featured in the AMB article.

WHERE IT ALL STARTED:

A trip to Tasmania convinced Mackay Regional Councillor Justin Englert that a mountain biking trail could be the economic project that the Pioneer Valley needed.

Right now Mackay Regional Council and Mackay and District (MAD) Mountain Bike Club are working on a project for mountain bike trails around Eungella and a 25km gravity trail from Eungella to Finch Hatton.

World-renowned track builders and experts have already visited the proposed area to gauge the validity of the project and the response has been positive.

“What we are talking about is economic development,” he said.

“It’s not for us locals to go out mountain biking its about attracting visitation to this region.

“There is so much merit for it.”

The area in Eungella to show the scope of the project

Cr Englert always had an interest in the project since he has been a mountain bike rider for almost 15 years, and had been to some of the most well known mountain biking locations across the world, including Blue Derby in Tasmania.

Cr Englert visited Derby in 2016.

At the time it was a trail network of about 80km luring about 65,000 visitors a year. The town was full with short-term accommodation, bike shops, cafes and four pubs.

It was a completely different story three years prior. “It was a timber and tin town in the 1930s to the 60s and was dying. There hadn’t been a home sold in 30 years – it was a ghost town,” he said.

Cr Englert said what he saw in Derby could easily be done in the Pioneer Valley with the right support.

But in the last three years, the town has been completely revitalised. So far they have invested $3.1 million in the trails,” he said.

“In the first year, it had 15,000. By year three they had 65,000 visitors. There is nothing else in this region that attracts 65,000 people.

“Mountain biking is the second largest growing sport after surfing. They are affluent travelers.”

Iain Masters has been working on the plan for more than 20 years

Dorset Council general manager Tim Watson said the Blue Derby trail brought in about $30 million for the economy and about $15-18 million in the local economy.

The trail opened in 2015 after a lot of work and attracts about 30,000 visitors a year and is growing.

“It’s the number one location in Australia for mountain biking and in the top ten in the world,” he said. “(Derby) had one foot in the grave before the park was opened.”

He said it cost about $1000 per kilometer in maintenance a year.

“There is a lot of work because you have to build the brand and market it. It’s like any business,” he said.

MAD Mountain Bike Club president Iain Masters has been working on this project for 20 years.

“It’s not just about sports and recreation, this is economic development,” he said.

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