Coromandel hero wins Outdoor Access Champion award
When: 5 pm, Tue 11 October 2022
Where: Pepper Tree Restaurant & Bar, 31 Kapanga Road, Coromandel
Ally Davey can turn her hand to just about anything to get things done, and she inspires others to do the same. Her incredible achievements have earned her an Outdoor Access Champion award from Herenga ā Nuku Aotearoa, the Outdoor Access Commission, presented tomorrow.
The Spirit of Coromandel Trust was set up in 2000 by Andy Reid and the late Keith Stephenson; it funds opportunities for people, particularly youth, to access outdoor activities. After 20 years of fundraising, the trust started building Ride Coromandel Bike Park on an ex-landfill site in 2020, with Ally at the helm as volunteer project manager.
"I remember when I first started, I sat on the grass, and I looked up and thought, ‘Woah, this is such an amazing opportunity. We've just got crap all around us and we can make this into something cool."
The park is a hit and draws riders in from outside the region. It’s been called the little park with a big heart, and Ally is most proud of the difference it’s made for young locals.
"We're quite a low socio-economic society here. You know, it's pretty rough for some of these kids," says Ally.
"Every time I go to the park, there's different kids from different diversities, of all different levels. I'm like, here's a helmet, here’s a bike – just ride. And they’re grinning from ear to ear. We just give them what we can and give them a little bit of time."
As you might expect, Ally is a natural diplomat, collaborating with a wide range of groups. She coordinates access for new trails and covers funding, marketing and media. She’s also innovative and hands-on. She collaborated with the Department of Conservation and local engineering student Ben Creemers to design the first kauri dieback cleaning station for bikes; and she often rolls up her sleeves to help with the practical work – such as helping to plant the park’s 20,000 kauri trees. She sometimes even drives the diggers.
All along, Ally stays humble and credits the wider team for the park’s success and this award.
"It's not just about me, it's the recognition of the team behind it. It's really cool to get that recognition for the trust as well," she says.
More recently, Ally helped develop the Hauraki–Coromandel region biking strategy. She also helped pull together nine Coromandel clubs and interested parties to form a trails collective, aiming to connect 400 km of existing off-road trails around the region. Private landholders have been the most amenable, with the main hurdles arising on forestry and public conservation land.
Herenga ā Nuku has provided advice to the trust where needed.
"I think moving forward it will become more important, for sure. And I've used [the Commission’s] mapping tools because they’re free and easy to use," says Ally.
Before moving to the Coromandel, Ally helped run Girls on Top, a club encouraging women to take up multisport. She’s carried this passion through, running Wahine on Wheels at the Ride Coromandel Bike Park for women and girls, as well as demonstrating career possibilities through her activities.
With the impact of Covid, it hasn’t been easy to find funding, and the trust has done well to keep entry free, asking only for a koha from those who can afford it.
"There's certain things we haven't been able to build. Like, we'd love to build some toilets and stuff, but it's beyond our budget. We made that decision early on, ‘Do we build facilities or do we build trails?’ And we built the trails, and were like, ‘Okay it's just going to have to come later when we can afford it.’"
If anyone can get it done, it’s Ally and her team.