They say that you either adapt or die, and following the tourism and service dollar is a logical choice. For some this choice has followed a relatively safe route and is attracting tourism dollars – provided primarily by the travelling grey nomads (retirees) – by creating townships full of cafes and crafted goods. However other small brave communities are taking a different path and mountain biking is providing a bright light and slowly injecting life into those regions.
Once such example is the small township of Derby, in north-east Tasmania. Since the closure of the local mine in 1948 Derby has been left to slowly die. Only a couple years ago the main street was nearly a ghost town with the population hovering around 200 people. However, the multi-million dollar development of world-class mountain bike trails in 2015 (and continuing today) was a bold move that has proven to be very successful.
Driven from a vision that recognises the region’s natural beauty, unique ecosystem and environmental significance, the local councils and governments were successfully persuaded to divert taxpayer funds into building a mountain biking destination. It wasn’t just about building “trails”. It was about building a “destination” where the visiting mountain biker could get to ride in a location not replicated in other parts of Australia (or even the world). It was about showcasing everything that was unique – from the rivers and streams, to the forests and fauna. Of course, this was all supported on the base of some of the best designed and built trails in the world.
Only a couple of years into a much longer-term plan, Derby has started to revive. Cafes are opening, real-estate values are increasing, new business ventures are starting, local jobs are being born, and people are coming – not only from across Australia, but from around the world. Some might say it’s happened too quickly, as the town struggles to physically accommodate and find services for the increase in visitors, but such quick success could never be planned for – only hoped for. Even the hard-lined old-guard locals who resisted or questioned the development are coming on-board and not only accepting, but even participating in business and even taking up riding. Simplistically, it’s a success story as the millions of dollars poured into the project will continue to be returned in many, many ways.