If you’ve been living under a rock lately then you may not of heard of Green Valleys MTB Park, but if you’re not a ground dwelling animal, then chances are you’ve heard the word going around, and the word is “YEEEEW!!!!
Just like it says on the website, “Greenvalleys is a Boutique Mountain Bike Park on private property, located in the foothills of the Macquarie Pass National Park. Tongarra, NSW. Australia.” but it’s so much more than that. Trust me.
Tyres and Soles had the pleasure of meeting up with Nick Haertsch, creator and owner of Green Valleys MTB Park, and he kindly took time out of his busy day to sit down and chew the fat with us.
T&S: Wow! This place is stunning and I’m not even referring to the trails, we’ll get to that later. Can you tell us how long you’ve been here and why you chose to base the park in this magical location?
Nick: Hi Jason, and thanks. The Macquarie Pass National Park is an amazing place. I’ve been riding and building trails down here all my life. It’s my fathers property. I’ve visited so many bike parks over the years , some big, some small and I always thought that the land where greenvalleys mountain bike park is now on, would work. Its based here for a few reasons. Firstly, im grateful that my dad allowed me to lease the property to establish a bike facility, and also really because the bulk of the property is too steep for running farming.
T&S: We strongly believe being out in the countryside is a big part of why we ride. It allows us to wash our brains of the hussle and bussle of modern life and re-connects us with nature. Do you find the location and surroundings make a difference to people’s experience here?
Nick: I totally agree. I believe that getting out of the concrete jungle and back into nature is important. I find that mountain bikers connect with that, and we have some amazing views, terrain and bushland that provides a sense of freedom from the grind of our everyday lives.
I have a good crew of committed legends who help out consistently for free, and that is amazing.
T&S: Building a MTB park is a dream for most of us, something a lot of us have toyed over with a few beers with mates but taking it to the next stage, making it a reality, is a whole different matter. Did you ever have those nights where you woke up in a cold sweat, wondering what the hell you were doing?
Nick: Haha.. Its been a tough journey financially that’s for sure. But I never questioned why I was doing it. I believe in it, I have a passion for it, and its what I love. If anything I would wake up in the middle of the night and think what would I rather be doing. Working for someone else, or doing this. The answer was obvious to me.
A friend told me that you can fail at something you don’t love. So why not have a crack at something you do love.
T&S: We hear a lot about work/life balance and how you should try to do what you love in life. For most of us it’s just not possible, or more to the truth, we are too afraid to take that leap. What was the motivation to push you to make that leap yourself?
Nick: The motivation was that I really had the opportunity to do it. I am so grateful that my dad had the land, and allowed me lease the property. It was last year that I decided to quit my job and do this full time. That was hard, but I spoke to my parents and close friends and they were all like “ what do you have to lose?”. A friend told me that you can fail at something you don’t love. So why not have a crack at something you do love. And if you fail at that, so what!!
T&S: The trails here are just sublime and seem to be growing in numbers every time I make the pilgrimage from Sydney. I know you’re personally involved in designing and building the trails, but that’s a lot of trails to manage. How do you manage the workload, it must be a full-time job?
Nick:It is a full time job, and that’s what I do now. I do this full time. As we expand the trails here, I will be looking to employ at least two people to help out. I have a good crew of committed legends who help out consistently for free, and that is amazing.
T&S: When thinking about a new flow section, table top, gap jump or huge sender… is it those moments at the end of the day with a cold beer in hand, singing in the shower or on the dunny when the vision comes to you, or is it much more thought out and strategised?
Nick: Its all of the above and also watching social media streams. My main focus is to provide trails and features that you wont experience anywhere else in Australia. There is a solid plan for the trail network, but when it comes to the actual building of them, a lot of the features come from input from the trail crew.
T&S: Trail building is an art in itself. How did you cut your trail building teeth and do you have any advice to wannabe trail builders out there who want to get in on the scene?
Nick:Building trails is all about experience. Build something, shred it, watch it get destroyed and build it again. The more trail work you do, the better you get. That’s it. There are some good key points you can get from the IMBA website on trail construction and drainage, but the rest is just how many hours you put into trail work..
T&S: OK, next question is a little deep. In this crazy trip we call life, some dreams are just too bloody hard to achieve and giving up on them becomes a very rearly solution for most of us. Are there any people in your life, past and present, that have inspired and motivated you to keep going and realize your dreams? This is a shout out.
Nick: I love a good shout out. Obviously my parents, for supporting and allowing the park to happen, but , if there was one person who really inspired me to make it happen. Shorty Gilyeat. He has been with me from the beginning of the dream.
He passed away recently, but I will always credit my decision to do the park to him. My good friend Gavin Morrisson, who has been building trails on the property with for what seems like 20 years. There are also others who inspire me and give me focus to build. Jack Baker. Cameron Rouch, Joshua Bishop, Keiran Volk, Zac Appleton, Davier Croen, Daniel Sedel, Ben Harmen, and also the Oxford Falls build crew. That place just rocked.
T&S: Thats an awesome shout out Nick, thank you for being so open with us.
T&S: You also hold race events here. Has that helped with the growth of the park?
Nick: The Wollongong Mountain Bike Club hold their club events at the park, and Rocky Trail also visit with their events. It totally helps with exposure and social media awareness.
T&S: Knowing riders will be coming down your trails at race speed, has this had an effect on how you build some of the trials?
Nick: For the Downhill and All Mountain trails, not really. But for other trails, its all about the flow and how things work. So some trails are designed to slow you down to enable you to do features and jumps.
T&S: Green Valleys MTB Park is also a club. Can you tell us a little bit about the benefits of anyone wanting to join?
Nick: Jump on the website and the info is there. www.greenvaleysmountainbikepark.com Basically Greenvalleys club members get discounts to club events and days, and notice on upcoming park days before the go public.
T&S: Sign us up!
T&S: A bit political now. The statistics say mountain biking is one of the fastest growing sports in Australia, if not the World. Why do you think some states in this country (and other countries) are way behind the ball in terms of getting on-board with sanctioned trail building, mountain bike parks and working with the MTB communities and groups in general?
Nick: This could go on for days haha. My experience is that NSW has really bad planning definitions when it comes to state planning policies to allow the recreational activity of mountain biking to exist. That, co-factored with environmental groups who want to keep people out of nature to preserve it, creates a very backwards and restrictive approach allowing people to immerse themselves in nature and amazing countryside. The more we allow people into nature , the more people will want to preserve and respect it.
T&S: On the up side though, other states within Australia are realising the benefits of mountain biking tourism brings to communities and local businesses, let alone all the health benefits. Derby in Tasmania is a great example of this. Do you believe we will eventually see that replicated more and more across NSW in the future or is there just too much red tape to clog our proverbial drive chains?
Nick: NSW is already a nanny state in so many aspects. Other states in Australia, have removed the “red tape” and are pushing ahead not only with mountain biking but other nature based recreational activities.
Its such a shame, but I believe, its only going to get worse in NSW, and while there is potential in the greater Sydney area for amazing trails, what will be allowed will be minimal. It was hard enough getting the activity of mountain biking allowed on private property.
T&S: You also offer skills clinics here, I know as I took one recently and had a ball! You have a great teaching style that seems to comes naturally to you. What is it that you enjoy about teaching and helping others?
Nick: I love biking, and coaching is a part of it. I just like the smiles that come from progression of skills on a bike. You certainly had one.
T&S: If it’s not top secret, can you share with us what the next big plans and visions you have in store for Green Valleys MTB Park?
Nick:I just want greenvalleys to be the place you can visit, progress your skills, and from there you will be able to comfortably go anywhere in the world and ride.
T&S: We like that vision.
T&S: What’s the best way for people to find out more about riding, joining the club and racing here?
Nick: if your on social media follow our facebook page – greenvalleys mountain bike park . or alternatively – our website has all the information – www.greenvalleysmountainbikepark.com
T&S: All of us at Tyres and Soles really appreciate the opportunity to catch up and chew the fat with you. We know you’re flat out, so thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us.
Nick: Thanks legend. See you soon at GV..
We’re very excited about what’s going on down here and so should everyone else in NSW and Australia. Green Valleys MTB Park is fast growing to be one the top MTB parks in Australia. We have no doubt whatsoever that this place is going to take off big time. We will certainly be keeping a close eye on the park and all the exciting future developments. We’ve already booked in our next shuttle day. Eeeeew! See you there.
To find out more about Green Valleys MTB Park just click on the links below. Enjoy!
Words by: Jason Lorch
Pics: ©Gerard Laguna, ©Ty Bowmaker and ©Nick Haertsch