Massive damage to forest trails

By Alison King

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Event organisers faced with bad weather conditions may be forced to put contingency plans in place to protect mountain bike tracks in the Whakarewarewa Forest after thousands of dollars of damage from a race.

Repairs to tracks damaged from last weekend's Cateye Moonride - a race involving teams and solo riders completing laps of a short course - are estimated to cost $5000, with another $2000 for the big field at the Waipa car park.

The event was organised by Rotorua events company Event Promotions. It cancelled the 24-hour mountain bike event on the Friday night because of poor weather but continued with its six and 12-hour races on Saturday. The course was changed to remove two pieces of singletrack - Genesis and Challenge - but other tracks were damaged, with about 1km of tracks needing to be overhauled.

Redwoods Visitor Centre manager Julianne Wilkinson said event organisers paid a fee to use the forest but if any repairs were "over and above" normal wear and tear then the organiser was liable to pay. Event Promotions will foot the bill for repairs, which the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club began yesterday. "We want events to happen in the forest but we need to put in place measures to manage these events," Mrs Wilkinson said.

"We were reliant on the event organiser using their common sense to make the right decision. We'll have a review and use it to move forward."

The tracks affected are Kids Loop, Tahi, Creek and Grinder.

Event Promotions owner and Moonride race director Murray Fleming said he had changed the event to suit the weather conditions.

"We changed the tracks on the Friday and we also cancelled the 24-hour to minimise the damage," he said.

"It would have been a lot worse if we had ploughed ahead. We have to look at procedures if we get a huge downpour again. We'll be discussing in depth as to whether we change it to a fully road course."

He said the participants had already voted with their feet in terms of what time of year the event should be held. It was to be held in February this year but only 45 teams had entered, leading to it being moved back to its usual May spot. Last weekend more than 250 teams and 50 soloists raced.

Rob Smail, who is the mountain bike club tracks spokesman, said while the trails would be able to be fixed the club would rather not be put in that position.

"Our main concern is it's a problem we shouldn't be dealing with," he said.

"These tracks are going to lose character and it's a character that people love. We're very passionate about it. We need to have discussions to make sure we can avoid this happening again."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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