The Blue Derby Mountain Bike Trails – How The Largest Single Mountain Bike Project Undertaken in Australia (To Date) Came To Be…
Loss of industry and subsequent downturn in employment opportunities in the early 2000s hit hard in north-eastern Tasmania. As such, Dorset Council made the decision to work towards transitioning a regional economy from heavy reliance on resource commodity production to a more diversified platform. Mountain biking was first highlighted as a key opportunity in a summary report from Sport and Recreation in 2005. Currently the fastest growing recreational pursuit worldwide, it is a travel motivator that provides economic return for the destination of choice. Generally well educated, affluent and travelling in groups, mountain bikers desire non-crowded natural destinations with good quality base facilities, and are willing to pay for quality experiences; an excellent fit with the offering in Dorset.
In 2011, Northern Tasmania Development (NTD) presented a proposal to develop a network of mountain bike trails at three dispersed development sites; one in the Dorset municipality. Supportive of the concept, Dorset Council researched the projected outcomes, and found an alternative site at Derby aligned to the most successful national and international models, particularly in combination with the nearby Blue Tier proposal.
Partnerships were developed and comprehensive consultation commenced, highlighting the researched achievements of similar mountain biking destinations (where framing and rebuilding through targeted investment has offset the social and economic issues associated with industry downturn).
Initial concept plans were released and partnership support was confirmed by the end of 2012, when an Expression of Interest was submitted to the Australian Government’s Regional Development Australia Fund. Dorset Council, as lead applicant for the project, was successful in securing funding of $2.45 million in 2013, making the $3 million Blue Derby Trails project partnership between Dorset and Break O’Day Councils, Forestry Tasmania, Parks & Wildlife and public, private and community sectors, the largest single mountain bike project in Australia.
World Trail, renowned for building world class mountain bike trails, was awarded the construction contract by Dorset Council in November 2013, and commenced building in April 2014. By the end of 2014, a concept map for the adjoining Blue Tier Trails was completed, new public toilets were under construction, a marketing plan had been developed, and the first event was booked. Stages 1 and 2 were successfully launched in 2015, comprising nearly 40 km of what will be 80 km of trails. The remainder, including an iconic Blue Tier Descent, were completed in June 2016 and officially opened in October 2016.
An increase in economic return is provided by having a high quality product and critical mass of trails that warrant an overnight stay. Following informative education sessions presented by Dorset Council and Tourism Northern Tasmania that outlined key requirements of the ‘target’ destination mountain bike market, existing businesses embraced opportunities and invested to expand and tailor their product offering. Just under halfway through construction, the Blue Derby Trails were already demonstrating strong positive impacts, through increased property investment, new business, reinvigoration of existing enterprises, and lifting of community morale.
The Blue Derby Trails won the Local Government Association of Tasmania’s Delivering Excellence – Smaller Council’s Award in July 2015, followed by the presentation of a national Award for Excellence in Economic Development in September 2015.
Derby, and the broader Dorset region, now looks set for a bright and prosperous future!