Northland's first dedicated mountain bike park is on track to attract 25,000 riders this year and has so far created 29 jobs.
Waitangi Mountain Bike Park, which opened in October 2016, now boasts 47km of trails twisting through pine forest near Paihia with one more zone still to be developed.
Project manager Tiffany Holland said visitor numbers had gone up 50 per cent since a trail hub opened earlier this year with a cafe, bike hire shop and office in shipping containers at the park's Bayly Rd entrance.
A newly built ''pump track'' — a looped dirt track designed to be ridden without pedalling — was also drawing new riders, from children on balance bikes to freestyle jumpers.
The hub was built with a $490,000 grant from the government's Provincial Growth Fund so last Friday Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones paid a visit to see where his pūtea (money) had gone.
He was given a tour of the park and encouraged to try a bike, even after confessing his own bicycle was ''currently hanging in a tree''.
For a while the Minister's staff wondered where he'd gone before he reappeared riding cross-country and clearly enjoying himself.
Holland, the driving force behind the Focus Paihia project, told Jones the PGF money left over from the hub was being used to build a new track from Waitangi Golf Course to Wairoa Bay, opposite the park entrance, to encourage people to cycle to the park from Paihia.
Currently the only access was via unsealed Bayly Rd which was dusty, corrugated and steep.
The new track would have sea views and native bush all the way and, because it passed through a stand of kauri, would be designed to prevent the spread of kauri dieback.
''It's a really beautiful area to be able to show off,'' she said.
That would still leave enough money for 3km of new cross-country trails aimed at novice riders.
The pump track had been built entirely with materials, transport and labour donated by local businesses, Holland said.
By the time all the PGF funding had been used the total spend on the park would be $2.3 million, most of which had come from grants.
The majority of riders were from Auckland, who boosted the Bay of Islands economy by renting accommodation, eating out and trying other activities.
About 16,000 people used the park in 2018, a number expected to hit 25,000 this year.
The economic impact would increase greatly once the park started hosting mountain-biking and multisport events.
Holland said she had put in bids for a number of national and Northland events and was waiting to see if she had been successful.
Jones said the PGF grant to the park had given "tremendous" value for money.
''They've turned an unloved landscape into high value recreation. I love forestry – it just never would have occurred to me that in a plantation forest, in our most revered area in the North, we could create such experience and value.''