"From little things big things grow" was originally a protest song first recorded by Paul Kelly and the Messengers in 1991, but the title could well describe the explosion of Tasmania's interest in mountain biking.
The first bike seed sprouted on February 7, 2015 with the launch of the first 20km of the Blue Derby Trail Network which was a joint initiative between Break O'Day Council and Dorset Council with funding support from the federal government.
The Blue Derby Trail Network has now increased to 125kms, and with connections to another 66kms of the East Coast St Helen's mountain bike trails, Derby had been given the kiss of life it so dearly needed.
We all know its history as a tin mining town which at one stage supported over 3000 people and produced more than 120 tonnes of tin per month until April 1929 when the Briseis Dam burst and flooded the mine, tragically killing 14 people and the town's economy.
Even though the mine was reopened in 1934, it never reached its former glory and closed in 1948. With its closure many of the Derby population packed their bags and moved out. Derby was dying a slow death as its population plummeted to 173.
How could the town be reignited was the question? The councils put their heads together, did their homework, and believed mountain biking had the potential to rescue the town and bring energy into the region. The result is now written on the sign as you enter the town - 'Historic Past - Exciting Future' and what an exciting time it has been and will continue to be.
On October 8 I was travelling the Great Eastern Drive towards St Helens. The heavens had opened and rain was leaving a legacy of washed-out bridges and roads. While they were being washed out Derby was being booked out as every second car, SUV or ute had one or more bikes strapped to the top or back of their vehicle and was heading for the trails.
The philosophy behind the Derby trails was 'build them and they will come', and they have come in droves. Not only have there been locals wanting to test their skills but also world class mountain bikers who tested their skills during the staging of two Enduro World Series events.
These expert riders voted Derby as having the best trails in the competition, high praise from riders who have competed all over the world. As a result of Derby's worldwide and new-found fame people are flocking to the town, buying real estate, and setting up businesses to cater for riders.
Visitors don't just come to ride, some don't even get into the saddle; they come to soak up the atmosphere, eat, and enjoy a coffee. Some come just for the exhilaration of the lakeside floating sauna perched on the waters of the Briseis Hole.
This was originally built to ease the aches and pains of leg-weary mountain bikers but is now being experienced by those who just want to do something different. Jumping into the nine-degree centigrade waters after relaxing in the 80-degree centigrade sauna lets you know you are alive, just like the town of Derby.
As you can see, "from little things big things grow" and the mountain biking experience doesn't stop growing at Derby. It has grown to St Helens where, after a one-hour drive south from Derby, you will collide with the St Helens Mountain Bike Trails which some say are the most scenic in the world.
You can start your ride high up on the sub-alpine Blue Tier and wind your way through mountain ranges, bushland and granite boulders until you catch a glimpse of the world-renowned Bay of Fires.
The track will spit you onto the white sands of Swim Cart Beach. But wait there's more, as the television advertisements tell us, because after riding the Bay of Fires track you can also ride the tracks known as the Stacked Loops.
To gain access to these tracks you only need to drive five minutes up the hill from St Helens. Here you have tracks ranging from beginners to intermediate to difficult.
The Black Diamond trail was the last piece of the St Helens Mountain Bike network and stretches the trail network to 110kms. These trails are a major drawcard for the district, and Break O'Day Council is eager to add to them. You can understand why.
If these tracks haven't exhausted you, you can always travel north west to the Wild Mersey Bike Trail Network being developed by Kentish and Latrobe municipalities.
This track extends the benefits of mountain bike tourism to the North West Coast, spreading the economic benefit to every region in Tasmania. Stages one and two have already been completed with the Railton stage opening up another four green trails over a distance of 16kms with a loop through forest hills above Railton's Goliath Park and a 10km dual cycling/walking link to or from Latrobe's Warrawee trails.
The final stage leading into Sheffield is expected to be opened in late 2021.
At this time of year many people ask "what are you doing for Xmas?" I know mountain bikers will want to enjoy and put their skills to the test on our world-class tracks.
These tracks will have them thinking all their Christmases have come at once. So too the business owners who have opened to support the mountain bike explosion.
"From little things big things grow", I hope you all have a 'big' Christmas and New Year.
- Tania Rattray, independent McIntyre MLC