A lot of sweat and metal has gone into the Manawatu Gorge track over recent months, with plenty more to come. But some mountain bikers are tearing up the track as Department of Conservation staff labour to upgrade it.
In total, four hundred and sixty cubic metres of metal will be carted and spread along the popular 10 kilometre walking track before spring, in a bid to upgrade it to a more accessible, user friendly “walking” standard. “We are trying to make the track more appealing for city people, so it is easier for them to get a taste of the bush” says DOC ranger Lyall Goggin. “But a few mountain bikes have done a considerable amount of damage, so that we have to spend a lot of time repairing parts of the track we have already upgraded”.
Carting metal along the Manawatu
The metal is flown in to dump-sites spaced along the track. It takes one day to fly in seventy cubic metres, which is then carted along the track in a power barrow and wheelbarrows, spread and compacted. Geo-textile mat is laid underneath the metal to provide a barrier between the metal and the dirt. This allows water passage, but prevents the metal from sinking into the dirt. Mr Goggin arrived at the track near Upper Gorge Bridge to continue spreading metal, and was frustrated to find significant damage caused by skidding mountain bikes. “I could see tyre tracks and patches of bare cloth as I walked up the track,” says Mr Goggin. Cyclists are skidding around corners of the track, throwing metal off the track and exposing the geo-textile cloth underneath. “Instead of carrying on with work further up the track, the holes had to be refilled and compacted again,” explains Mr Goggin.
Metal is yet to be spread on four and a half of the ten kilometres of track. The project is scheduled to be finished by June, but progress is slowed because staff have to spend their time repairing the damage caused by mountain bikes. It is not yet known if there is similar damage in other parts of the track. “I’m not looking forward to seeing the rest of the track” says Mr Goggin.
The track upgrade is part of a ten year project to protect and enhance the biodiversity and recreation opportunities in the Manawatu Gorge. The track is used by an average of 1200 people each month. Being only 15 kilometres away from Palmerston North, it is a great opportunity for people to explore the tranquillity and beauty of unique landscape and native bush. Mountain bikes are not permitted on the Manawatu Gorge track for two reasons; they cause extensive damage to the track and they pose a significant risk to other track users. Signs to this effect will be posted at the track entrances.
Department of Conservation area manager Jason Roxburgh urges track users to give mountain bikers a friendly reminder that the Manawatu Gorge track is a walking track only. “We want people to get out there and enjoy our natural heritage and the recreation opportunities” says Mr Roxburgh. He encourages people to use the places designed and managed for mountain biking. “Takapari Road on the western side of the Ruahine Ranges takes you up to the tussock tops, and Palmerston North City Council maintain excellent biking tracks up the Kahutarawa Valley”.