Land donated by the Kenneth B. Dart Foundation to the New Zealand government has been designated a recreation reserve.
The Wairoa Gorge land, which comprises 2,127 acres of native forest in the Tasman, Nelson region of the South Island, will be held in perpetuity by the Department of Conservation, partnering with the Nelson Mountain Bike Club to provide public access to the property’s network of trails.
The Kenneth B. Dart Foundation was established in 2015 by international investor Ken Dart to provide economic support to community initiatives and projects. Thanking Mr Dart for a gift that will ensure Wairoa Gorge is conserved for future generations, Department of Conservation Northern South Island Operations Director Roy Grose said:
“The mountain bike park, hand-built to international standards, is highly valued by New Zealanders and overseas visitors, many of whom come to New Zealand specifically to ride its tracks. It is a valuable natural and recreational asset for the Nelson Tasman region. The arrangements for management of the land mean people can continue to enjoy its excellent mountain biking amenities and its beautiful natural environment.”
As an avid mountain biker, Ken Dart purchased the Wairoa Gorge land in 2010 through his company RHL. Responsible for managing the property, the RHL team worked with more than 60 local trailbuilders to create a world-class downhill mountain bike park.
Representing Mr Dart at the formal handover on Friday 28 June in New Zealand, RHL executive Ray Griffin said, “Ken’s appreciation for Wairoa’s natural beauty brought him here initially, but it was the work ethic, skill and passion of New Zealand’s craftsmen that really made an impression.
“With the Nelson Mountain Bike Club continuing to manage the bike park, Ken hopes others will have the chance to ride the spectacular trails and enjoy the camaraderie of the local mountain bike community as he has.”
The opportunity to combine natural conservation with recreational use was central to Mr Dart’s vision for Wairoa Gorge. RHL worked closely with the Department of Conservation to develop a robust environmental management plan to protect the area’s virgin forest and indigenous species.
“At Wairoa Gorge, Ken could combine his passion for mountain biking with his love of trees and landscape design,” said Mark VanDevelde, CEO of Dart Enterprises. “The gift of the land and its designation as a recreation reserve completes his commitment to conserving the area as a mountain bike park that can be enjoyed by all.”
Recreation reserves in New Zealand provide public access to coastlines, forests and rivers across the country. The concept of combining conservation with low-impact recreational use is one that could translate well to Cayman, said VanDevelde:
“One of the best ways to protect and promote ecosystems is through a comprehensive and commercially sustainable environmental management plan which provides for culturally compatible visitor opportunities. With an environmental plan, such as the one RHL put in place at Wairoa, it is possible for conservation and thoughtful development to coexist.”
Dart is known for designing outdoor spaces for community use, having partnered with the Cayman Islands Government to create community parks in each of Grand Cayman’s five districts and dedicating a substantial portion of Camana Bay’s town centre to the public realm. Dart has a history of land conservation, collaborating with the National Trust for the Cayman Islands to acquire and protect environmentally sensitive land.
“Our commitment to sustainable development means we consider the economic, social and environmental impact of all our projects,” said VanDevelde.