A flourishing rise in demand for recreational trail development across Australia has seeded the launch of Australia’s newest trail design and construction company, TRC Trails.

An offshoot of one of Australia’s largest tourism and recreation planning consultancy, TRC Tourism, TRC Trails will focus on bringing to life mountain bike, walking, running, cycling, and multi use trails. Demand for the development of trails is the result of the growing number of trail and recreation strategies rubber-stamped by local government authorities across Australia each year.

The new company will offer expertise and advice across trail auditing, new and upgraded trail design, construction and maintenance, with a focus on creating unique and high-quality user experiences facilitating environmentally sustainable ‘journeys through nature’.

TRC Trails will be led by Janet Mackay, who will guide the consultancy’s direction drawing on more than 30 years in the tourism recreation development sector and Lachy Mackay-Wiggins, who transitioned his trade and infrastructure engineering background into project management in trail planning and construction/maintenance for TRC Tourism before working to establish TRC Trails as a stand-alone design and construction entity.

Having worked at Perisher Australia’s largest ski fields, as a Mountain Area Supervisor, Lachy brings to the lead role expertise in managing teams to implement practical on ground projects including trail, signage and other land management activities. An avid mountain bike rider and hiker, Lachy has also worked on trail design and implementation and will work alongside TRC’s senior trail planners to plan, design, build and audit trails.

“In establishing TRC Trails, we want to focus on creating trail-based experiences that are, without exception, high-quality, unique and responsive to the environments in which they are hosted, with sustainability always in centre of frame,” says Janet.

“Just as importantly, our approach to design will be user-led, with a clear focus on an understanding of the increasingly nuanced motivations and expectations of the many and varied trail user markets.” says Lachy. 

Outdoor recreation has exploded in popularity, a trend only exacerbated by COVID, and the pressure on our trail networks in terms of usage and even overcrowding has never been greater. That spotlight will only intensify as other factors fuel further interest in outdoor recreation – from better and more affordable equipment, to navigation technology and apps that leverage the rise of user-contributed identification of trails formal and otherwise, to a recognised move away from traditional team sports, an increased social focus on health and wellbeing and the return to nature movement – all of it feeds the demand for more and better trail experiences. And land managers are having to respond. TRC Trails hopes to help land managers meet that demand while also delivering better outcomes in terms of sustainability, environment and maintenance.

Users across all outdoor recreation activities have increasingly higher expectations in terms of the experience they seek, how that experience is supported, the style of trail, how it is waymarked, the type and impact of infrastructure on it, and the level of interpretation. Add to that a user market that while exploding in growth, has also fractured in terms of the user dynamic – how they engage in a trail – and it’s clear that new approaches are needed to develop solutions that work for both users and land managers.

For instance, mountain biking trails remain in the spotlight with big-budget projects happening across Australia, but where once riders were lumped into one, perhaps two broad categories – cross country and downhill – there are now more than 18 ‘styles’ of off-road riding, each with different demand characteristics and needs in terms of trail construction.

“Then there’s the actual approaches to construction – from design to materials and a sharp focus on environmental impacts – all of which defines trail development as a lot more complex an undertaking than perhaps it has been in the past. TRC Trails will seek to engage that complexity with unique and sustainable solutions contextualised to each project.

TRC Tourism’s expansive past project experience will act as a solid and supportive foundation for TRC Trails as the consultancy grows its own wings,” says Janet, who notes that the parent company has already worked on trail development projects of all scales across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, including local bike trails and networks; mega mountain bike tourism projects such as the Red Centre Adventure Ride (NT); single-use curated hiking trails; multiday walk, ride, paddle concepts; shared use strategies for councils and trails blueprint masterplans for entire states.”

TRC Trails’ services will cover projects of all sizes delivering auditing, assessment, delivery recommendations, design, construction, engineering, wayfinding and interpretation along with maintenance services across upgrade, repair and revision of trails and structures. TRC Trails will operate according to the latest standards across safety, risk management, and environmental stewardship.

The ultimate aim is to deliver trails that immerse visitors in nature, building a connection to and appreciation for nature, and in doing so become future stewards of our natural environment. Trails are the critical element in delivering people into nature and in creating a value relationship between the person and the environment.

TRC Trails believe this is the only way forward in looking to protect our wild spaces while enjoying them with minimal impact. We see TRC Trails as part of that ongoing protection and stewardship of the nature we love.

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