DA-approved four-wheel drive parks are few and far between in New South Wales, so we’re stoked to see the Central West 4WD Park open and already popular with state-based four-wheel drivers.
The 1500-acre property is owned by dedicated off-roaders Jamie and Julie Smith. Jamie is a past contributor to 4X4 Australia and former off-road competitor, driving in events such as Tuff Truck, Woodpecker Gully Challenge, North Coast Woodpecker, Nissan Trials and Willow Glen. He has also been the brains trust behind a number of events.
The park is located at Hill End Road, Avisford/Hargraves, just north of Mudgee and around 3.5 hours from Sydney.
The park contains more than 50 off-road tracks of varying difficulty, catering for everything from standard off-road vehicles (Jamie reckons he can easily drive his stock work Hilux along all these), to rock-crawling buggies, to more challenging tracks for modified tourers – “those with diff locks and stuff like that,” Jamie said.
As well as the numerous tracks, the property has plenty of camping areas including some magic sites right on the banks of the Meroo River – ensure you pack a fishing rod, as you might get lucky and hook a redfin or snare a yabby. In short, it’s pretty close to the perfect weekend away for off-roaders and their families.
The path to gaining Development Application (DA) approval wasn’t easy and required a massive commitment on Jamie and Julie’s part. The couple invested a huge amount of time and effort to ensure the park met all the necessary application requirements and satisfied council regulations, kicking off with their initial application in 2014.
“Basically it was a sheep farm before I bought it,” Jamie said. “There was no DA for recreational use at the time. So first-off, I had to prove [to council] it wasn’t big enough to run sheep. That was the biggest problem: it wasn’t approved at all to be a four-wheel drive park.”
The property’s history as a gold mining area – the sheer number of holes, shafts and mine detritus left behind – was another argument for Jamie to use it as a recreational park. He then had to get an ecological report, sort a new access road (this needed to have a minimum distance of line-of-sight, which meant he had to alter the property entry point) and develop a bushfire plan.
It wasn’t easy and it took a long time, but Jamie was eventually helped along the way by two council representatives who were off-roaders and could see what he was going to achieve. “They thought it would be a great idea,” Jamie said. “But they still went hard on making sure everything was right and did the proper regulation checks… I had to jump over a lot of hurdles.”
It was a big job for approval, but Jamie is stoked he did it the right way. “Really, I know there are other 4WD parks around, but they haven’t been through what I’ve been through to get proper DA approval,” he said. “I did that for insurance purposes as well.”
The park has only been open for just over a month, but the Smiths are already fielding considerable interest from 4WD clubs, families and media. “I have only been promoting it on Facebook and the website for three weeks,” Jamie said, at the time of writing.
The park is only open from Friday to Sunday because Jamie and Julie have full-time jobs in Sydney, and they commute back to the park on Thursday nights to be ready for visitors arriving on Fridays.
If there is interest, the park will also open on school holidays. The park’s already had a number of visitors and more large groups are coming from September onwards, so it seems word of mouth regarding the park’s huge appeal is quickly spreading.
According to Jamie, the best campsites are on the banks of the Meroo River, which can be accessed via crossing the waterway.
The park is an amazing accomplishment that reflects the family’s passion for 4WDing. The couple’s daughters, Jessica and Jacinta (both accomplished drivers and comp winners) have also helped establish the park. Jamie has also had (and is thankful for) assistance from his old 4WD club, On All 4s 4WD Club, as well as Dubbo 4WD Club.
Both these clubs have constructed camping areas on the property and helped with track construction, reflecting both the communal nature of clubs in general and their support for a bloke that has the off-roading community at heart.
“I’ve been 4WDing since I was 18 years of age,” Jamie said. “I have always wanted to own my own 4WD park and I’ve finally done it. I am 51 now, so I just want people to enjoy what I enjoy – the same hobby. There’s not a massive amount of money to be made out of it, to be honest… but I know I will break even or go ahead next year once I get a full year out of it.”
After hearing Jamie’s passion for off-roading, and how he’s worked to construct something incredible that reflects that, it’s hard to not just jump in the 4x4 and head out there now to experience the Central West 4WD Park.
For those keen to check out this amazing property, go to the website where you’ll find all the info on camping rates, day fees and some more of Jamie and his family’s story. While you’re there, ask Jamie about his Land Cruisers – his garage is like a Cruiser museum!