Through well-established partnerships and collaboration, the trails on Sappi’s land have become a safer and more enjoyable option for riders, runners and walkers. And it’s apt that we should pay tribute to the bicycle – a positive symbol of sustainability – signaling harmony between people and the planet on World Bicycle Day on 03 June.
Sappi salutes this humble, yet inspirational mode of transport, which helps to bring to life some rural economies through tourism and associated recreational activities. The Sappi Trails Programme was initiated in 2011 in response to the growing interest amongst mountain bikers wanting to access and build trails in our forests. Strategic workshops with our partners have helped shape the programme to ensure that our investment in this initiative today truly benefits the local economies and communities surrounding our forests, delivering shared value and social impact for neighbouring communities. These trails have grown from being exclusive to cyclists, to also include trail runners and walkers.
The Sappi’s Trail Programme – which has resulted in partnerships with trail custodians such as the Karkloof Country Club and Tranquilitas in Mpumalanga – dovetails neatly with Sappi’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of these being SDG 15 - Life on Land.
Through focusing on this SDG – one of the nine prioritised by Sappi – we aim to promote the responsible use of our land through providing access to recreational users. Our forestry and environmental management teams take great care to protect the 160 Important Conservation Areas and the seven natures reserves, situated on the one third of our landholdings that are set aside for conservation and for biodiversity. By providing access to the land, visitors to the trails experience the biodiversity and natural scenic beauty that this land has to offer and what we are doing to preserve it for future generations. (Read more about these interventions here.)
These trails have also provided much needed economic support for surrounding communities, bringing about Decent Work and Economic Growth in the area, aligned with SDG 8 and the company’s commitment to create shared value by ensuring that the trail networks result in broad based economic beneficiation.
In certain areas such as the Karkloof where the trails are now visited by more than 7,000 recreational riders each year and where the annual Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival draws approximately 1,500 entrants, an economic impact study by KZN Tourism indicated that the annual projected income in the Karkloof area was approximately ZAR231 million.
In addition to the Sappi Karkloof Classic event, Sappi has also been providing land access over the last 18 years to other trail events such as the KAP sani2C – one of the world’s largest and most successful mountain biking stage races – which, besides generating more than ZAR50 million per annum for the region according to a KZN Tourism estimate, also benefits numerous schools and communities through generous donations and grants.
Projects such as the Karkloof Adventure Tourism Incubator (ATI) which led the formation of Nguni Trails – which helps build and maintain the more than 250 km of trails in the Karkloof – are further positive outcomes. A well-functioning trail team leads to better trails, which draw more visitors who support the local tourism economy including visiting tourism attractions such as the Karkloof Crane Conservation Centre, yet another proud legacy project in which Sappi has been involved, and which harbours all three of Southern Africa’s crane species.
A cornerstone of the success of this programme is undoubtedly through collaboration and partnerships, which aligns with SDG 17 the Partnerships for the Goals.
These factors, along with the strong partnership between Sappi and the Karkloof Country Club have resulted in the Karkloof Trails being ranked number one in the The Top MTB Trails in South Africa for 2021; no small feat in a country where mountain biking has become the new golf.
With many of Sappi’s own employees being passionate riders, runners and conservationists, the trails on our land also provide excellent recreational opportunities for our own people. So, we salute the bicycle and wish you all a happy World Bicycle Day!
About Sappi Southern Africa
Sappi is a leading global provider of powerful everyday materials made from woodfibre-based renewable resources. As a diversified, innovative and trusted leader focused on sustainable processes and products, we seek to support a more circular economy.
Sappi is powered by the expertise of more than 12,000 people worldwide; with headquarters in four key regions: South Africa, Europe, North America and Asia.
Locally, we have a footprint in Gauteng (head office), KwaZulu Natal (three mills, forestry operations and a shared services hub), Mpumalanga (two mills and forestry operations) and the Western Cape (sales office staff). Our product offering in SA include dissolving pulp, packaging and specialities, graphic papers and forestry products.
We also generate shared value in the communities in which we operate, by investing in skills training and SMME development to boost employment and grow the economy.
Sappi will continue to build a thriving world by acting boldly to support the planet, people and prosperity.
Find out more at www.sappi.com
About World Bicycle Day
The United Nations established World Bicycle Day for many reasons. As basic as it is, the impact of the bicycle on society is quite transformative – even the poorest people get access to basic transport with the bicycle.
A project initiated by a US-based professor who dedicated himself to an academic project, exploring bicycles and their role in development catapulted into a massive movement backed by ‘Sustainable Mobility for All’, and eventually resulted in a dedicated international day set by the United Nations for the promotion of bicycling. On 12 April 2018, the resolution declaring 03 June as World Bicycle Day was unanimously adopted by all 193 member states of the UN General Assembly.
Find out more at https://www.un.org/en/observances/bicycle-day