LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – The Centre has off-road motoring in its DNA which could play a big part in dragging us out of the COVID bog: Let’s create publicly-administered land for fun vehicle users as well as conservation purposes.
Other places in the world are already doing this: Take Moab, Utah, USA, which rebuilt its entire economy on recreational and adventure tourism when the mining there went bust.
I’ve have long been an advocate for hiking and mountain biking, pushing for more investment in our local trail systems. We can go beyond that.
There are places for motor cross in the Territory, but there’s a real gap when it comes to kiddie quads, rock crawlers, and other vehicles that cannot be registered.
People can buy them, but there is nowhere to legally use them. Yet they represent commercial opportunities, could draw visitors to the Territory, and also keep more people living here, turning FIFO workers into locals.
In south-eastern California the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, also called Glamis Dunes, is a large sand dune ecosystem. About 40% has been set aside for recreation, and the remainder is managed for biodiversity conservation.
These dunes are one of the most famous areas in the US for off-road vehicle owners.
Motorcycles, sand rails, ATVs, and 4WD vehicles are all legally using this area.
Over major winter holidays, as many as 150,000 people may visit over a single weekend, obviously bringing a positive economic impact to nearby towns.
The world-famous Slickrock Trail is part of the Sand Flats Recreation Area, and it is managed for recreation first and foremost.
Both mountain bikers and motorcyclists use the trail.
Nearby is an area for 4WD and off-road vehicles that hosts the annual Moab Jeep Safari, attracting additional visitors to the area.
Moab is located in an arid environment with dramatic landscapes, similar to some in the Territory.
Another great example is the Hatfield-McCoy Trails in West Virginia, which is an internationally known trail system for off-road vehicles managed by a regional recreation authority with a board of directors.
Currently there are 600 miles of trails for off-road vehicles and plans for 2000 miles of trails with accompanying facilities, including commercial lodges, guides, restaurants, and camping.
This trail system caters to ATV, UATV and motorbikes, but hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders also use it.
The Hatfield-McCoy Trails are marketed globally and visitation is from all 50 states in the US and nine countries.
The trails are well-maintained and well-regulated, including patrolling to ensure compliance with safety regulations.
We too should capitalise on our marketable points of difference, including our incredible environment and open spaces.
In some places in the world, people will travel hundreds of miles to visit trails in locations like these.
Post COVID-19, it is not hard to visualise people flying to the Territory from major capital cities, hiring recreational vehicles, and having an amazing experience.
Secure land tenure is important for continuity of some of our current major fixtures, and it is also important for the development of new motorsport events.
A regulatory framework could simply operate under the Parks and Wildlife Act but with a primary focus on recreation. It could also deal with the licensing of these types of vehicles; providing approved travel routes for them from towns to the recreational areas; and managing environmental impacts.
The Territory could truly become known as the adventure playground of Australia.
Scott McConnell (pictured at top)
Candidate for Braitling
All photos from the rally at Moab, Utah, USA.