Cycle trail back in business

By Brendon McMahon

The West Coast Wildneress Trail is open for business despite storm damage, although one section requires “significant remedial work” over at least two months, the Westland District Council said yesterday.
The trail from the Milltown forestry track to Cowboy Paradise is closed until further notice but with a detour in place to allow users full access.
Council operations manager Peter Anderson said a large number of “significant trees” were down on the closed section of trail, due to the April 17 storm.
“This will require a carefully planned and executed recovery and repair programme that we anticipate will take up to two months,” Mr Anderson said.
It particularly required a sensitive approach to the environment with strong focus on safety, “so this is not a task that can be rushed”.
Work included clearing trees and track surface repairs. The signposted detour would remain until repair work was completed. “Trail service providers are all back to full operational delivery following the interruption of the storm,” Mr Anderson said.
Hokitika-based cycle trail tour operator Chris Steele said it was imperative the trail stayed open, particularly to build a positive public reputation.
“This trail is such an amazing thing for this district. It shouldn’t be given anything but Rolls Royce priority,” Mr Steele said.
“It is really important at the moment to keep the momentum of this trail going.”
He had been out on the trail regularly since the storm to update first-hand knowledge to his clients. The trail was “in a new form” with the detour for the closed Milltown section, which he described as “impenetrable”.
Being able to reassure the 28 cyclists he had booked this month was vital, Mr Steele said.
“They’re wanting to know what’s happening and the way things are, I need to go out there myself,” he said.
It was clear that good progress was being made by council contractors clearing the trail.
“The tree clearing guys are doing an amazing job ... we’ve got to be sort of positive.”
A locked gate on the detour had barred some cyclists, forcing them to lug their bikes over the gate. Four of his cycle clients last week thought they had gone the wrong way.
“If we’re going to say the trail is open and we have an alternative route, it shouldn’t have a locked gate in the middle of it.”
Thankfully, someone spotted their confusion and waved them on, Mr Steele said.
Council chief executive Tanya Winter said regular updates were being posted on the cycle trail website.
The gate in question had several key holders, which had created some confusion about keeping it open.
“We apologise. It’s just taking time to get the message through to everyone who has keys,” Ms Winter said.