Many times in my previous blogs here you’ll have heard mention of the APA (The Agency for Protected Area’s) Georgia. I thought it time I should explain a little more about this agency and what the significance of them is, not only to mountain bikers in The Republic of Georgia, but also in the wider Caucuses area. And for that matter not just mountain bikers but anyone with a love for the great outdoors that would pay a visit to this forgotten jewel nestled in the Caucasus Mountains. So who are they? And what do they do?
I suppose the agency is the equivalent, in some ways, to our forestry commission in so far as the goal of the agency is to protect the national forests, natural monuments, bio diversity and rare species of flora and fauna in The Republic of Georgia. Which by the way, there’s a lot of to protect!
As with most western Europeans I’d heard very little about The Republic of Georgia before arriving here in 2011, as far as I was concerned it was just another former soviet republic that I would pass through on my ride east. The cycling handbooks mentioned it in short, the corruption that was once rife here had been cleaned up so it was safe to travel through, the capital city Tbilisi was a beautiful city to wander around, Georgian people were typically warm. And other such understatements under sold this quite remarkable country.
So just for a minute we’ll forget the usual tourist information blurb and think of it in pure nature terms, Georgia is a microcosm of everything that an outdoor loving person could wish for, in a tiny package all rolled up nicely in a small territory on the Black sea coast. It has everything from beaches, to mountains, from plains and wetlands to semi desert moonscapes. For a small country there’re a lot of different habitats and climates squeezed in. The highest mountains in Europe are here and even so, in Tbilisi in the summer months the temperature climbs well into the 40’s.
It’s the A.P.A.’s job to protect all this natural beauty, from illegal logging, poachers, developers and to prevent big chunks of it been just sold off. The significance of their work to Mountain bikers here is the investments they are making in eco tourism and more specifically for Mountain bikers in MTB trails. They are the first government agency to recognize the potential of cycling as a tourism product, much like the Welsh assembly back in the nineties and the Scottish government a little later. In real terms what this means is that the construction of the first purpose built MTB trail will be completed in Tbilisi National Park before the end of this month. Thus kick starting, what will hopefully turn into a trend of investment into this potentially huge source of revenue in MTB and tourism.
As I understand this will be only the first trail! There are others been planned as I write this blog. So not only can we be spoilt rotten with natural trails to ride, we can also look forward to the enjoyment of riding purpose built trails and The Republic of Georgia can start to benefit from the worldwide boom in mountain biking. There’s a significant amount of money and resources been directed toward this first trail system of some 40 odd Kms in length and with its success we hope to see other areas of the government start to take notice of the growing number of cyclists here and the potential of Georgia on a worldwide scale to be a hot destination for Mountain bikers to visit.
This holds significance not only for Georgia but the neighboring countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan, joint cross border cycling tours are already been arranged which will by- pass the regional political tensions and see government agencies and cyclists working together promoting the sport in the Caucasus region.
I believe Mountain bikers, who are typically adventurous types, are always on the lookout for new and interesting places to ride. And as we march on into the 21st century the arrival of purpose built trails in the Caucasus will open up the potential for more and more western visitors to discover this amazing country and all the natural beauty it has to offer.
So thank you to The Agency of Protected Areas of Georgia for committing to build a better future for Mountain biking in the Caucuses from the mountain biking community here and far.
You can find out more about the A.P.A. and their endeavors by following this link, also if you are coming to Georgia in the near future and are planning to visit some of these beautiful regions it’s a great starting point for planning your trips. . http://www.apa.gov.ge/en/home