Ariel view of Nelson, NZ

PayDirt Profile: Nelson MTB Club

May 13 — 2021 | Santa Cruz, California

The Nelson Mountain Bike Club (NMTBC) is famously known for their repertoire of unique and natural trails in the area. Soon, they’ll finish the construction of a brand new descent in the Maitai Forest, which will boast over 9,800 feet of trail, making it one of New Zealand's longest singletrack descents. Named in memory of Bernard “Butters” Simmonds, who was a vibrant part of the Nelson mountain biking community, the new Butters trail is sure to be a community favorite.

We caught up with the crew to learn more about the trail, the builders, and Nelson’s mission to keep things as native, natural, and wild as possible.

Let’s start with the trail builders… Can you tell us a bit about each of them? 

Ian Phillips, Kurt Lancaster, Digby Shaw, and Damian Stones are the main trail builders for the Butters trail. They are locals to the area, experienced riders, experienced builders, and even though this isn’t their full time job, they put their heart and soul into it. Ian’s a laid back dude (hence the nickname “Easy” after famous rapper Easy E), Kurt’s as strong as an ox, Damian’s a bike coach in his off time, and Digby is as unique as his name suggests—together, these four make up a dream team that the local community can’t help but get behind. When they’re not out digging, you’ll find them on some of their other favorite local trails like Whaimana, Mutleys, and Peking Ridge/629.

PC: Sven Martin

So, what’s the new trail like? Give us a bit of a description, you know, paint the picture. 

It’s a hand built natural trail with plenty of off-camber parts and wide multi-line sections. As a grade 5 trail, it will be wild and challenging—like a mini downhill trail. 

We’ll let the photos speak to the rest of it. But, if you’re wondering why there’s some large trees being cleared, that’s because we’ve removed the alien species of Wilding Pine in support of the Nelson City Council’s initiative to remove non-native species where possible. Since we like to keep things as native and natural as possible, the Butters trail was routed to ensure we did not have to remove any large native tree species, but rather highlight them instead.

We love that this is a pretty gnarly trail, but it isn’t rogue… How did you guys go about getting everyone on board to work together to make such an iconic trail? 

About three years ago we started with getting the Nelson City Council to commission a report on the economic impacts of mountain biking to the region. Not surprisingly, this report (the Berl Report) found it to be very advantageous, so it was easy to get our local government on board. They agreed to a three-year funding program which then set out the conditions for our ten year trail building plan. We chose the trails that met our aims and those of the Nelson City Council. Given that we had secured an EWS round, they were happy to include the Butters Trail in the program. The Council are the landowners, so all the consents fell into place—eventually. Getting the matching funds from PayDirt to complete the Butters Trail meant that the Council was able to redirect some funds to much needed maintenance of existing trails which has benefited the whole mountain biking community—not just the ones that ride grade five trials! 

How many hours (total) were spent on this trail? 

1,000 hours and there is still a little bit to do. It started in January and is expected to be completed by the end of May—although a section of it has already been used in the Aorere Enduro much to the delight of riders!  

PC: Sven Martin

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