Trail Fund NZ support helps Opotitiki mountain bikers revive historic track through Bay of Plenty bush
Buried in dense and stunning Bay of Plenty jungle, a track that was once wide enough for horses is being revived by mountain bikers – albeit after the bush has mostly reclaimed it as its own!
Efforts to restore the Whakaumu Track, a historic military route built in the late 1870s, began in January this year. More than 600 volunteer hours have already gone into making 5km of the 8km track 90% rideable and, with some financial support from Trail Fund secured, the volunteers hope to continue their efforts.
Helping lead the charge is the Motu Trails Charitable Trust, and executive officer Jim Robinson is confident the completed track, located 20km east of Opotiki, will draw visitors from around the North Island.
“It’s an absolutely stunning ride that passes through sensational native bush with soaring nikau ferns, ponga and kanuka,” says Jim. “At present, the riding is fairly technical due to large rooty sections and a few narrow bits but we’re aiming to make it into an intermediate grade.”
At present, the track has only one entrance, accessed off Block Access Road near the end of the Dunes Trail. Ultimately, it’s hoped to open the track through to Tirohanga, a distance of about 8km. However, there’s a fair bit more work to be done.
“The level of track building required varies significantly – from parts that are pretty much fine to parts where you’d barely know a track existed,” says Jim. “Most of the track has been handbuilt, using spades and pick axes – it’s remarkable what a handful of hardworking volunteers can achieve in a four or five hour session.”
Not that all the work parties have been small – there’s been 25 work parties since the start with between two and 12 people.
However, the next challenge required more than hard work, which is where Trail Fund NZ has stepped in to help. The trail crosses several small creeks, so the trust plans to use the $750 grant from Trail Fund to buy culverts.
“We had planned to build bridges, but we recently found out that that requires resource consent and having a qualified builder construct them,” says Jim. “So instead, we’ve opted to buy culverts and use the natural slip material found near to track for the surrounding drainage.”
Jim says that while volunteer commitment can achieve amazing results, funding is essential to complete projects such as this.
“I can’t emphasise the importance of funding like this enough,” says Jim. “We are very grateful to organisations like Trail Fund who reach out to groups like us – their support makes a massive difference financially and also validates the effort we’re putting in.”
If you’re keen to give the trail a go, information on how to find the entrance can be found here: http://www.motutrails.co.nz/explore-the-trails/trail-descriptions/