Arguably the the biggest game-changer in the Australian motocross industry has taken place on the Mid North Coast.
The Island Action Sports Complex at Nerong, halfway between Taree and Newcastle, has officially opened, much to the delight of amateur and professional motorcycle riders everywhere.
The complex is like Disneyland for riders, being the only one of its kind between Brisbane and Melbourne. It can be held in the same regard as the famed circuit at Phillip Island.
There's been many highs and lows for the Fenwick family, who created the complex from scratch.
Track and facility manager Ty Fenwick worked long days and nights with his father Tony to make their dream a reality.
"We've now stepped the bar up for the whole motocross industry in Australia," Ty said.
"It's just been a real labour of love and it's been financially hard on my parents but it's awesome now its finally finished, all done after six years of hard work.
"If you're in to motocross, this is heaven."
In the beginning
The dream began on the Fenwick family farm at Stockrington, west of Hexham.
Ty's passion for building tracks started there as he turned part of the property into a motocross track. It also kick started his life on the bike.
His dad, Tony, has worked in demolition for almost 40 years and only had one thing in mind once that time eventually winds up.
"My old man's dream was to have a have a motocross facility as his retirement," Ty said.
"The standard wasn't really where it should have been for the industry so we wanted to step that up, give some place where people could go, they could start from the very novice and go right up to a pro athlete, and cater for all their abilities in between."
Tony searched for an adequate property for many years to no avail.
It wasn't until a riding trip further up the coast caused Tony to strike gold.
"This (the Nerong property) wasn't even for sale, he just stumbled across it and when he was riding in the bush in Bulahdelah and the guy wanted to sell," Ty said.
"He ended up buying it and selling the other property."
The Fenwicks lived at the site for about two and half years before the complex began to take shape.
"When we moved here, there was nothing, not a fence or a road, just a complete bare cow paddock," Ty said.
"Everything you can see now has been constructed over the past six years."
The next step, lodging the development application, wasn't smooth sailing.
"We had a lot of headaches to start with the highway upgrades, that was probably the biggest hurdle to get over because you're modifying a national highway.
"It's not just a couple of pieces of paperwork, it's a few hundred thousands dollars of paperwork to get that through and you've just got to go to work to earn that money and that's what dad did," Ty said.
Once this was cleared, they started to build roads and plan the initial construction projects for the complex.
Only purchasing tin to complete the project, all resources used on the site were recyclables.
"As we did with every demolition job, 99 per cent of all materials here are recycled so they've all come and we've repurposed them as train decks, seating, fence posts, buildings," Ty said.
Lots of blood, sweat and tears were poured into the build, with Tony and Ty on site virtually every weekend to work on tracks and sites.
"It's been a hard (slog) but it's just awesome, we're so happy," Ty said.
"We persisted and now we're here."
What's on offer
From beginners to professional athletes, the complex has something for everyone.
"The freedom about coming to The Island if you're just a novice rider is that you've got so many tracks to train on and learn.
"You don't have to be a member of a club, you can just show up, fill out a form, pay your money and go ride all day long.
"There's no groups you have to be in, you just ride until you pass out basically," Ty laughed.
It's just been a real labour of love and it's been financial hard on my parents but it's awesome now to finally finished, all done after six years of hard work.Ty Fenwick
At sign-in, all riders must have watched a briefing video on social media or at the sign-in building on arrival. Then you can ride to your heart's content.
For the jump development area, a set of tabletops were erected to gradually build the confidence of novice junior riders.
"That way the kids can build their confidence, they can go from a one metre tabletop to a 12 metre tabletop to slowly build their confidence to go out on the big track," Ty said.
"Those who have never ridden a dirt bike can come and learn here from the very beginning and go right up to become a pro athlete."
Young and experienced athletes who want to test themselves can ride on the junior track.
Designed by American company Dream Traxx, this high speed track includes high flow jumps, rainbows and whoops.
"This is for world-class junior riders and that's exactly how we designed and built it to accommodate for the best," Ty said.
"It's not for the faint heartened."
A flat circle track was built for mini riders. It caters for both beginners and seasoned riders.
The mini advanced track is designed for 50cc, 65cc and 85cc motorcycles.
Dream Traxx also curated the senior track. With its high speeds and large jumps, only professionals are allowed to ride on it.
Once riders get used to the flow, the high speed corner track is perfect for developing skills.
The rut track will improve smoothness, hand and eye coordination, fitness and rut skills. If not approached correctly, this track will be a challenge.
With its fast flowing corners and rounded jumps, the rollercoaster is a fun track open to riders of all abilities.
Experienced riders who want new scenery and less dirt can tackle the brown snake enduro track. This is a short bush track in a 20 minute loop filled with 'challenges and difficulties'.
Some of the tracks are better than those found in America, one of the world's leading nations for the sport. Ty said the complex has an American influence.
We hope that the other parks follow suit and they step up their game and build better facilities and better tracksTy Fenwick
To wind down, the cafe in the centre of the complex will help recharge the batteries.
Picnic tables set out in front of the cafe provide a full vantage point of the track.
"There's not one part of this track you can't see while you're sitting down here," Ty said.
Bathrooms and showers are situated nearby.
A first aid medic is on hand all day while riders are on the track. "That way you've got medical attention straight away if you ever have an accident here," Ty said.
Complex caters for all
Whether you're a novice rider or a humble observer, the complex caters for everyone.
In recent weeks, the complex has welcome riders from from South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.
Riders of all abilities from up and down the coast and Sydney have also gone for a spin.
One of the shining lights however has been the interest from the fairer sex.
Lots of women have taken to the track in a good indication that it's not just for boys.
"It's so awesome," Ty said.
From the start, Ty envisioned the complex to have "an inclusive vibe for the whole family."
"We want people to come here and feel like they're in a safe environment. They can ride safely, they have well maintained tracks and that whole family vibe because we know there's a lot of mums out there who don't want to go and watch the boys ride," Ty said.
Preserve the environment
Water is a precious commodity for any motocross facility. With this in mind, Ty revealed the family resisted building the complex in western NSW.
As the area is gripped by drought, the complex wouldn't have been guaranteed consistent water resources.
"We know the farmers are in a bad situation right now so it's like 'okay, what if we try and get our property near the coast' and that's where he (Tony) stumbled across this place.
"And we're guaranteed water every weekend for the facility but we're probably not guaranteed to open every weekend because we may get too much water and it's just a 'mud-fest'," Ty said.
"We had to find that balance and with this property we had to dig a massive dam to hold our water storage for the facility."
A 38,000 litre water truck maintains each track twice daily.
"One track takes 38,000 litres and we water that track probably two times a day so that's a lot of water going on the tracks. And we have seven tracks already and we still are expanding," Ty explained.
"All our tracks will run off into a water system, a dam, and we can catch all that good dirt because that is the cream of the crop for the motocross track, all that dirt that washes off.
"We dig all that out of those sediment dams and put it back on the track again and it's just a continuous cycle."
With every decision they make, the family is conscious of the environment.
They don't mess around when it comes to fuel, oil or rubbish pollution. A lifetime ban is enforced for anyone caught littering.
Next year will be all about expansion and events. Due to hot conditions, the complex will be closed in December and January.
This will give the Fenwick family ample opportunity to preserve water and start on the second stage of the complex expansion.
The expansion is set to be completed by September 2020.
It's all about more family-orientated activities and more space for elite athletes.
One the key additions will be the construction of another sediment control dam, which will allow for more water storage
Throughout the year, a further six tracks will be added.
For top riders, a professional supercross, freestyle motocross and man-made endurocross tracks will provide an adrenaline rush.
A motocross straight rhythm track (supercross in a straight line), mountain bike course and a four-seat side-by-side course will complete the upgrade.
When we moved here, there was nothing, not a fence or a road, just a complete bare cow paddock.Ty Fenwick
The side-by-side course will be a three hour loop of the entire complex and will cater for the growing interest in the style.
"The side-by-side industry is a massive industry that is growing in Australia," Ty said.
"It's for some of those guys who don't want to ride anymore, they may have had an accident and they feel a bit safer in a side-by-side.
"You can still give them that experience but with their families to do a full three hour trail in a side-by-side."
Ty indicated ongoing discussions with MidCoast Council about a full trail system at the complex.
"There's a lot of guys who might like to do a little bit of motocross but they want to do a bit of trail riding so we can accommodate for those guys," he said.
A development application is also before council to be allow camping in the complex.
Several manufacturing sponsors could hold events and product launches there in the next year. "We're open to any promoter to propose anything to us," Ty said.
They'll also look to hold their own events, across multiple disciplines.
"It's definitely a great facility for events due to the fact that when the public come here they can see the whole track," Ty said.
"You're not at a disadvantage like some tracks where you've got to walk all the way around the track to see what's going on the other side.
"You can literally sit down in one spot and see everything so there's a good vibe here for events. We're going to have a lot of events here in 2020."
An early idea is a 12 hour enduro team event.
At the end of the day, the Fenwick family hopes their venture will be a trendsetter for the industry.
"We hope that the other parks follow suit and they step up their game and build better facilities and better tracks," Ty said.
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