Where it all began
The Sappi Trails Programme was initiated in 2011 to formalise the relationship between Sappi and stakeholders who were using Sappi land for mountain biking, walking and running. The overall aim was to minimise risk while maximizing benefits - for both trail users and for Sappi.
The programme has developed over 4 phases:*
Phase 1: Risk Management
Phase 2: Marketing & Branding
Phase 3: Sustainability & Local Economic Development
Phase 4: Creating Shared Value
The growth of the Sappi Trails Programme has resulted in a world class network of trails in the Karkloof and Howick area in KwaZulu-Natal. Extensive and exciting trail networks have also been established at both Mankele Bike Park and Tranquilitas Adventure Farm in Mpumalanga.
Working closely with key stakeholders and partners Sappi has developed recreational and event trail use systems that are well respected by Trail Custodians (the Clubs that build and maintain the trails on Sappi land).
Trail Custodians communicate with the general public who want to use the trails, which means that a safe and enjoyable trail experience has become a highly valuable feature in many areas. So much so that tourism businesses around the trails have benefitted, and in the Karkloof Valley it is estimated that trail activities have resulted in an annual Overall Economic Impact of ZAR231 million. To watch a short video highlighting the Sappi Trails Programme, click here.
One of the most important impacts of the Sappi Trails Programme has been the stimulation of jobs related to trail building and maintenance.
Sappi is a proud partner of the Adventure Tourism Incubator (ATI), which is aimed at creating an effective model for skills and enterprise development, while lifting the standards of the Karkloof and Howick trail networks. The core product of the ATI is Nguni Trails, a small black-owned business comprising Team Leader Jabulani Mthalane (47), and Phumlani Radebe (24) of the Karkloof. Nguni Trails have been awarded a contract to perform full time trail maintenance for the Karkloof Country Club, and are cutting their teeth on accruing further contracts in the second phase of the ATI.
Through the Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival, the Karkloof Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre has received increasing support since 2017.
Linked to Sappi’s awareness of the importance of ECD in upliftment of local communities, various educational resources have been channeled to the ECD class, as well as sponsorship of accredited ECD training for local teacher Londiwe Dhadla.
In January 2019 the Sappi Trails Programme earned an IABC Golden Quill Award of Excellence for Communication in Community Relations.
This was based on communication strategies aimed at both internal and external stakeholders on multiple levels, that were judged as highly effective.
In phase four, the Sappi Trails Programme has been highly focused on taking trail access to a more inclusive and well-balanced level by growing trail running, as well as working with Trail Custodians to stimulate social responsibility initiatives linked to trail networks and trail-based events. In particular, emphasis has been placed on meaningful and realistic job stimulation, as well as a concerted effort to monitor and measure the impact of the Sappi Trails Programme. This helps set the bar for all partners committed to growing sustainable tourism around Sappi land, and in specific linked to access to Sappi land.