The Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust has been recognised for its work creating the Old Ghost Road.
The popular biking and walking track, which pulled more than 12,000 visitors last year, will receive the Walking Access Commission Ara Hīkoi Aotearoa’s Outdoor Access Champion Award for its lasting contribution to public access.
It’s the first time the award has come to the West Coast.
Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust chairperson Phil Rossiter is “incredibly honoured and humbled” by the recognition, and said it is deservedly shared by the hundreds of determined volunteers and partners who have made the track possible.
“We’ve had key people in there from when it was just a dream, to when we planned it and built it, and they’re now operating it. They’re out there day in and day out in the mud, sleet and snow, just doing it,” he said.
Rossiter is no less busy now the Old Ghost Road is up and running, and said he maintains high personal expectations of himself and the track.
“People come a long way to visit our small part of the country, and they need to have a good time so we work our backsides off,” he said.
“Yesterday’s success isn’t necessarily tomorrow’s, so we have to keep going. There are always a million things you can tweak or fix, and nature is always doing its best to keep the to-do list long.”
The jobs the track has brought to the region is a proud achievement for Rositter, who estimates three-quarters of the money spent by track users goes into the local economy.
“It’s just bloody amazing. There are literally dozens of people who now have meaningful, gainful employment, interacting with people who love our outdoors,” he said.
The trust received the award at a ceremony in Westport on May 15.