Janice and William MacFarlane are trying to save Eskdale Park from the mountain bikers.
A sedentary and relaxing park is under threat.
by Brenda Vowden
Eskdale Park is many things to many people — a unique playground where generations of locals and out-of-towners have picnicked, swum and played for more than 100 years. We are now at risk of losing this wonderful area, say Friends of Eskdale Park committee members Janice and William MacFarlane.
Eskdale local Trina Bergloff-Howes founded the group, now an incorporated society, in response to the Hastings District Council's 2018 release of the Hawke's Bay Mountain Bike Club's (HBMTBC) plan. The plan includes the building of a "hub", car parking for 200 and a swing bridge situated near the current site of the park's toilets.
William says two years after the release of the plan, the council showed a draft of this plan to local residents of Eskdale at a tree planting day.
"As a response to this plan our community group, Friends of Eskdale Park, was formed. The Hastings District Council (HDC) then asked for feedback about Eskdale Park online and hosted a meeting at Hukarere School about the future of the park."
William says due to the increased publicity of the HBMTBC's plan, the meeting was focused on this issue, and a clear majority wanted the park left as it is, or wanted minor improvements.
"The council then held a closed key stakeholders meeting, and a smaller meeting at Hukarere School. Due to the increased public interest, the council voted to enact a Reserve Management Plan for Eskdale Park at the end of 2020."
Eskdale Park was originally gifted for public use around a century ago by Thomas Clark.
Unfortunately, the gifting documents were lost during the 1931 earthquake, with the current documentation based on a bridging document.
"The family knew a bit about it and they did what they could with what was left."
Janice says the letters from before the earthquake found in New Zealand archives talk about Thomas's intentions.
"He was a very organised person so would have had all that documentation. As a group we want to preserve that essence and have the use of the park as he intended."
The HDC has granted the club new access to their present biking facility in the Pan Pac Eskdale MTB Park at Waipunga Rd, where William says there is ample room for the HBMTBC to build its new hub and car parking.
"They don't need to destroy a public park when they already have what they need."
"Eskdale Park is more of a sedentary, relaxing place to go."
As well as the hub and parking, Janice says the mountain bike club is also asking for a container for a cafe, another for bike storage, a 100m pump track plus a bike cleaning station.
"They also want 24-hour access to the mountain bike tracks for night rides. People will be coming and going. There is a school there, people live there. It's not good security and people won't want to listen to car doors banging."
She also says the HBMTBC is wanting to add a swing bridge across the river.
"Anyone could get into Pan Pac — it's not good. This is the only place like this in the Napier area."
William says the land has been destroyed multiple times by flooding.
"We want to look at its future."
The HDC is now starting the process of a Reserve Management Plan. Part of that plan is consultation with the public. William and Janice are encouraging people to have their say.
"The process is in place and can take up to a year. We would like the mountain bike club to go ahead but in the area they already have a permit for in Waipunga Rd. We are opposing their plan for Eskdale Park and want to secure the park's future for what it was intended by the person who donated the land."
The pair say they want the public to get involved.
"This is what can save the park. The people who use the park can have a say."
The Eskdale Park website offers information about the current situation. William encourages people to send in submissions as soon as the council starts calling for them.
"The process could take more than a year, but the first 30 days is crucial. A lot of people using the park aren't necessarily internet savvy. Get in touch with the council and have your say."