It seems that, at least temporarily, the famous Gorge Road dirt jumps have been saved. Since 2018, the locals who built and maintained the jumps had been expecting their license to use the property would end on July 1 of this year. In fact, since the jumps were built in 2003, they have literally been on borrowed time until the local council who manages the land found another use for it. It was decided that that use was to store construction equipment for municipal projects, and the jumps would have to go.
This situation is not entirely different from what the equally famous Aptos Post Office Jumps experienced. Their story reached a sad end in 2015, but until then, the Aptos locals were granted permission to keep their jumps for several years after the landowner, a development firm called Barry Swenson Builder, leased the property to Santa Cruz County (for approximately $1 a year) so that it could be regulated as if it were a public park instead of a private facility, which would have been more difficult and more expensive to insure. That agreement was pushed through by Barry Swenson Builder’s Senior Vice President, Jesse Nickell III, who was an avid mountain biker and saw his position as an opportunity to stretch out the life of the Post Office Jumps as long as he could. And it seems that Gorge Road’s redemption is somewhat similar.
Rod Drury is a wealthy New Zealander who founded the accounting software brand, Xero, in 2006. He is also a mountain biker who recognizes that jumps like those at Gorge Road can’t simply be recreated somewhere else, even though there were plans in the works to do just that. Queenstown council had made arrangements for the Queenstown locals to relocate to a nearby spot, but it still would be a monumental tragedy to lose a spot like Gorge Road. Jumps evolve over time, changing every digging season. Transitions are perfected, drainage is improved, and transfers are created or discovered. Drury had reportedly made an offer to buy the land under Gorge Road, but details are sparse as to exactly what arrangement led to today’s news. What we do know is that a parking lot not far from Gorge Road has now been designated to be used for storing construction equipment, presumably the equipment that would have otherwise soon been in the place of the fabled dirt monoliths.
Under the assumption that the jumps would be destroyed by now, the locals didn’t bother to cover them with the large sheets of black plastic every dirt jumper knows too well. Being winter in New Zealand right now, they’ve had their share of weather, and now will need countless hours of repair. We’d bet that nobody is complaining.
Photos: Tyler Roemer