A hidden sanctuary tucked away in the centre of Tauranga could become host to an off-road community cycleway designed to help school children get to and from school safely.
Gate Pa School asked the Tauranga City Council yesterday for up to $30,000 to help fund the proposed biking track through an area of land behind the school. The 10 hectares sits tucked in the gully between Fraser Cove and Gate Pa School.
Principal Richard Inder said the school had been exploring the idea for the past 12 months as the "beautiful" land was under utilised.
The area was thick with native bush, redwoods and a small stream. About two thirds of the proposed biking track was already in place, so transforming it into a community cycleway would be a fairly straight-forward task, Mr Inder said.
"You wouldn't know that you're in the inner city," he said.
"It's quite magical."
Mr Inder said the track could help families struggling to find a safe mode of transport to school for their children.
Gate Pa School is located on one of the busiest sections of Cameron Rd, which regularly clogs with traffic.
"It's a very busy area and many children don't bike to school because they don't have a bike, the skills or because their parents are worried about danger [on the road]. Here they could come down as a family and bike together."
The proposal includes the creation of a track to run about 500m of the school's top field which would be suitable to riders of all ages and skill level.
A donated shipping container would house up to 50 bikes at the school, bought from a $10,000 grant by Bike On Schools Charitable Trust, and the track would be open to public outside of school hours.
Chief medical officer Phil Shoemack said there were "no downsides" to the proposal.
"It gives parents peace of mind and the other benefits other than the joy that people of all ages get from biking is the vastly improved health and fewer cars on the road.
"From a health perspective it makes a lot of sense to make it safer, easier and more attractive for cycling to be an everyday option for people, whether that's going to school or work or whatever."
The proposal has the support of Tauranga Girls' College, which shares the area with the school.
Principal Pauline Cowens said she applauded Mr Inder's initiative and the area was a beautiful and special resource.
"It's a very picturesque, lovely piece of local area ... educating children while young to use cycleways and having families somewhere safe to be with their children is a great idea," Mrs Cowens said.
The land had special qualities to it, including mud at the mouth of the stream which Maori treat as sacred.
The area could not be developed into anything more than recreational or educational use for these reasons, Mrs Cowens said.
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said he hoped the community would rally around the cycleway project to help it become a reality, describing the area as "a hidden jewel in the heart of our city".