GEORGE NEWS - With numerous local and visiting mountain bikers and trail runners enjoying the opportunity offered by the Saasveld system of the planned Garden Route Mountain Bike Trail, the project proved to be a roaring success from the start.
Various role players planned carefully and worked hard over two years to make the trail a reality.
It all started towards the end of 2014 when a bunch of mountain bikers out on a training ride discussed their safety following some unfortunate incidents that took place in Witfontein. What also came up was how they got lost when they started out at their sport and how visiting riders are getting lost because of no marked routes.
Thanks to the partnerships between George Municipality, MTO Forestry and the Green Sport Foundation, the first Saasveld Trail System with three marked routes was unveiled on 15 December.
The routes start and finishes on the wall of the Garden Route Dam.
A new business Garden Route Experience (GR Exp) made this possible with their sponsorship of the Saasveld System.
George Trails is the first trail network in the country to be integrated into a regional disaster management centre.
Each signpost in the GR Exp Saasveld System has the 10177 emergency number displayed with a unique code.
The Eden Disaster Management Centre personnel can identify where the person is via a GPS layer on their system and take action.
Head of Eden Emergency Management, Gerhard Otto has hailed the initiative saying that this can help save lives and costs and make the surroundings safer.
"Apart from the obvious benefits to the trail user, we often have to dedicate many staff members to search and rescue attempts which might take them away from their regular work for days and run up costs significantly. Open trails are also less of a fire risk."
The George Trails project aims to create safer trails, opportunities to develop nature based sports such as mountain biking and trail running, provide economic opportunities for local businesses, create jobs and to market George as a top trail tourism destination. The project has the potential to be a major tourist attraction for George with the growth trail sports are showing across the county.
"What is amazing is that Werner and Green Sport had the vision and taken something that have been sitting fairly dormant under our noses and is packaging, improving and marketing it as what we believe will become a major tourism product for George," says acting George Tourism Manager, Graham de Swart.
The man behind the project is Werner Rall founder of the Green Sport Foundation, a George based non-profit company.
"This is just a beginning of a long term project that holds so many benefits," says Rall.
"I have a lot of passion for our city and off course nature sport and it is incredible to think that nowhere else in South Africa one can find indigenous forest, coastal fynbos, pine plantations, mountains, oceans, farmlands and semi-desert (Karoo) areas all within a 20km radius of a city centre. This is truly unique to George and our trail and natural diversity offers many opportunities."
The project will aim to roll out marked routes for Denneoord and Witfontein trails during this year and it also incorporates district roads for mountain biking through the Karoo, Wilderness and Geelhoutboom trail systems.
The project relies on donations from the public and sponsorship from businesses.
Marlene Viljoen (Counsellor for Sport & amp; Environmental Affairs, George Municipality) and Braam du Preez (MTO Forestry Cape, Risk Manager) unveil the information board and GR Exp Saasveld Trail System.
The role players in the Saasveld trail System are, from left: Paul Hoffman (South Cape Economic Development Partnership), Gerhard Otto (Head of Eden Emergency Management), Braam du Preez (MTO Forestry Cape), Marlene Viljoen (Counsellor Sport & Environmental Affairs, George Municipality), Werner Rall (Director: Green Sport Foundation), Amagene Koeberg (Eden DM Tourism Co-ordinator), Andisiwe Kelem (GR & KK Tourism Intern), Melanie Wilson (Head of Eden DM - Tourism, LED & Communication
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