Spring is here, or at least trying to be. Days are getting longer, and sometimes even warmer. Nature beckons. It’s the perfect season to get out for a walk or bike ride. Around the block, beside the river, or even into the hills. Birds are singing. Flowers are blooming. Getting out there is a great way to get refreshed and reconnect with nature.
In my books, one of our best local walks is in the Pohangina Valley. It’s called the Fern Walk. The track starts near the river, meanders among big trees, climbs a terrace to get the heart pumping, and offers a gorgeous vista across the valley. There’s a massive rata tree. And it is a loop track, returning you to the trailhead after a couple of enjoyable hours immersed in nature.
Now the Fern Walk didn’t just appear. It’s in Totara Reserve thanks to hardworking volunteers, most notably Mick Pettifar. Mick and I met via Forest & Bird. I was busy chairing the Manawatū branch of the society. He was busy building trails. Mick isn’t the region’s only volunteer trail builder, and perhaps not the most well-known, but he’s left a great legacy in the hills that will be enjoyed and appreciated for years to come.
Closer to the city, many volunteer trail builders have been active. Up the Kahuterawa Valley behind Massey University, right to the road end, you’ll find the Sledge Track. That track along with Burtton’s Track and many others in the local area are open to us all thanks to the vision and tireless work of local farmboy Ian Argyle, another man who’s left a legacy in our hills. Ian had a great talent for rallying teams and delivering fantastic results.
Between Kahuterawa Valley and the end of Scotts Rd is the amazing mountain bike trail network built by volunteers and professionals under the guidance of the Manawatū Mountain Bike Club. Trail builders extraordinaire who’ve created a mountain bike destination from a blank canvas.
Serving as a city councillor affords opportunities to see work in progress. In a recent visit to Te Ahu a Turanga, the new east/west highway, I spotted a bit of the new shared path alongside the new road. In this case, the trail builders are the road builders. The catalyst was the spontaneously formed Build The Path group, a team of community advocates gathered from the cycling and equestrian communities that created the opportunity for people on bikes, feet and horseback to enjoy the area from a new perspective.
A famous local path yet to be built is the riverside one linking the city with Ashhurst and soon the Manwatū Gorge. Petitioners in their thousands have asked for this trail. If good things take time, this shared path will be very good indeed. Another adventure trail we all deserve is via the closed road through the Gorge. The space already sees plenty of informal use, and should be legally opened as soon as possible for walkers, bikers and horseriders.
This brings me to another group of trail builders. The Bainesse Community Development Trust is advocating for a shared path linking the city with the sea. Once achieved, and once we link the city to Ashhurst and Feilding via shared paths, we’ll have a network of more than 100km of paths and trails right here in heartland Aotearoa. Each one takes people, work, energy and vision to create.
So please do get out and enjoy the ones already built. And if you’re looking for ways to be involved in the community, advocating for trails and helping build them is a brilliant choice.
Brent Barrett is an environmental advocate, Green city councillor and scientist. The views expressed here are his own.