THE AXE hangs over two St John's Hill walkways with the Whanganui District Council seeking public submissions on a proposal to permanently close the Smart Tce and Burnett Tce walkways and spend about $60,000 on repairing the Alexa Pl walkway, which is currently closed.
The council says an assessment in 2016 found these three walkways are the least used of eight tracks in the city. And their unstable hillside locations could mean significant ongoing costs to repair slips. Steep and shaded, Smart Tce is also said to have health and safety issues, particularly in winter.
The council notes that closing Smart and Burnett terraces will leave a number of alternative walkway options to get to and from St John's Hill but it invited public submissions.
To treat this as chiefly a cost-saving exercise would be short-sighted. The council has invested a lot of time and capital on these walkways and closure means all the effort and expense in establishing them is lost.
Rather than look at the walkways in isolation, I suggest the council consider a bigger picture and my vision of a Whanganui City Circuit for walkers and cyclists. This is already substantially in place and Smart Tce and Burnett Tce are important links.
This is how I see the circuit, starting on the riverbank walkway by the Waimarie berth, proceed to Te Tuaiwi (the spine), up St Hill St from Taupo Quay, left into Dublin St, along the railway line to London St, Ghost Tracks A and B, Peat St, Smart Tce and Burnett Tce walkways, cross Halswell St and join the walkway alongside the deer park up Christie's Hill, Hillside Tce, Mt St Joseph's, down the Mt St Joseph's walkway to Peat St, Kaikokopu Rd, Somme Pde and then along riverbank walkway back to the Waimarie.
Much of this circuit is along established walkways as well as streets.
The only construction required is associated with the council-promoted shared pathway, the spine (already in place along St Hill and Dublin streets), and clearing slips off Burnett Tce. I am confident that if this circuit is promoted, use of Smart Tce and Burnett Tce will increase substantially.
While my circuit can be established by cutting out Smart and Burnett terraces and continuing down Peat St to Halswell St and then proceeding to the walkway alongside the deer park, it loses part of its leafy charm.
Although it is not essential to the circuit, I favour re-opening the Alexa Pl walkway which has had large sums spent clearing slips and reinstating the pathway over the past five years.
The fact that walking is becoming increasingly popular with the public means councils should be opening more walkways, not closing them. Our neighbours Palmerston North and especially New Plymouth recognise this and have some very impressive tracks.
As for the circuit concept, I note that Palmerston North has created an imaginative walking circuit by linking established tracks through reserves and also using streets. Its circuit is 26km long and can be walked in some six hours.
Ours is shorter but still a satisfying, mostly flat and varied workout which I believe, with good signage and the right promotion, will be very popular with the growing number of citizens who enjoy walking and cycling opportunities in our city.
Apart from the proposal to close Smart and Burnett and reinstate Alexa Pl, the public was also asked to submit on two other options — closing all three walkways or maintaining all three.
Submissions closed in late November and I hope the council's property and community services committee applies long-term thinking in its decision-making.
■ Dave Scoullar is a member of the Wanganui Tramping Club and the Te Araroa Whanganui Trust and also a keen cyclist.