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The gifts of flow at The Sappi Trails

By developing flowing singletrack through its scenic landholdings, the Sappi Trails Programme is creating shared value and thriving communities.

What do all great trails have in common? We think it’s that they combine excellent flow with

simplicity and mindfulness; whilst always keeping the adrenaline pumping. This is why the trails at Karkloof, Piggly Wiggly and Tranquilitas have become much loved outdoor playgrounds for riders, runners and hikers alike.

Sappi’s flagship partner, the Karkloof Country Club now offers both members and day visitors access to more than 250km of sublime singletrack that embodies these characteristics. Builders like Hylton Turvey and the Nguni Trails team have helped define the soul of this great trail network. When you ride some of Hyllie’s masterpieces in the Karkloof,

like Richert’s Realm, The Bachelor, Jewitt’s Jive, Sid Vicious and others, you can feel the essence of mountain biking – admiring the effortless flow while relishing the rush of the ride.

Likewise, the Piggly Wiggly Trails, situated in the heart of the Midlands Meander, have been developing over the past three years and now include 5km, 9km, 15km, 20km and 30km marked routes with an exciting 40km route currently in the pipeline. Further north, in Jock of the Bushveld country in Mpumalanga, lies the Tranquilitas Adventure Farm, where routes consist of a rollicking combo of purpose-built singletrack, hiking trails and gravel roads

suitable to all levels of rider.

Collaborating for success. These superb trails have all been developed under the Sappi Trails Programme, which was initiated in 2011. Not only have they shaped the landscape

as places to experience extreme cycling pleasure, but importantly the vision for these trails is taking shape to dovetail with Sappi’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets.

What better way to experience how we are upholding SDG15: Life on Land than by providing access to the natural scenic beauty that this land has to offer, and witnessing the care that goes into the one third of our unplanted landholdings that are set aside for

conservation and biodiversity. In turn, this encourages SDG8: Decent Work and

Economic Growth in the area, through related businesses that are part of the tourism eco-system, bolstered by the trails. Thanks to collaboration and partnerships with our trail custodians, we are also aligning with SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals.

To understand how this is achieved, we have placed a strong focus on measuring outcomes and impacts. A study conducted by Tourism KZN on the Karkloof Classic Trail Festival in

2017 showed that the event created a combined direct and indirect economic impact of R234 million. To build on this study, Sappi recently partnered with uMngeni Tourism to conduct a Business Impact Study focused on Nature Based Tourism Attractions and Activities (NBTAA) in the area, with a strong emphasis on the impact of the Karkloof and Piggly Wiggly trails.

The results are extremely encouraging and indicate that what we hoped for all along – that we are helping to create shared value in the area by allowing controlled and managed access to our land – is paying off in spades.

From the study we learnt that the direct economic impact of the NBTAA supply side is placed at R88 million, while the estimated combined value of the NBTAA value chain was as much as R189 million from the demand side (tourists) and as much as R151 million from the

supply side (tourism businesses). Impressively, the total direct jobs (direct employment in tourism businesses) is estimated to be 513 annually.

From these findings, tourism sector stakeholders and the municipality’s Economy Development Planning (EDP) committee will engage in identifying and prioritising projects that require development funding.

One of the attractions which featured prominently in the study was the Karkloof Falls & Picnic Site – one of the conservation areas situated on Sappi land that has recently been handed to

the Karkloof Country Club to manage, along with the trails that they have built on Sappi property. This magnificent site boasts a 105m high waterfall and is extremely popular amongst nature lovers and trail users, as a number of the Karkloof trails pass the Falls.

Sappi and its partners are immensely proud of what has been achieved through

the Trails Programme. Looking forward, the hope is that traditionally strong events such

as the Sappi Karkloof Classic Trails Festival and others will continue on their path to

recovery post-covid and that day visitor and annual member numbers will also continue

to grow strongly.

Collaboration is a core element of our business strategy at Sappi and we see this collaboration with existing and new partners in our neighbouring communities as the key

to unlocking the potential of nature based tourism, thereby creating even more shared

value in a thriving world.


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