Visit part of early work on Waikaia bike trails project

Rideline Consulting trail consultant John Jones has spent two days in Waikaia last week in preparation for drawing up a master plan of a proposed mountain bike trail network through the Waikaia Forest. PHOTO : SANDY EGGLESTON

Designing a network of mountain bike trails through a forest is a little bit like town planning, a consultant says.

The Waikaia Trails Trust has employed Rideline Consulting founder John Jones, of Christchurch, to develop a master plan for a network of trails through the Waikaia Forest.

The former geoenvironmental engineer spent two days in Waikaia last week.

The trust has permission to build a 25km network of trails through the 700ha forest, which is owned by the Southland District Council.

The network, which included a pump track, has an estimated completion cost of just under $1 million.

Bike trail designer Tom Hey, of Queenstown, has already drawn up a concept plan of where trails could go.

Mr Jones spent time in the forest looking at the proposed site for the trails.

“If you were going to plan a town you would want to kind of map it out a little bit to make sure that you maximise your space.”

It was important to think of the big picture before starting the project.

“It’s easy to dash off and start doing things piecemeal.”

The type of soil in the forest, the gradient of the land and vegetation cover were some of the factors he took into account when deciding where trails would be built.

“All these things will have impacts so it’s weighing up those different things.”

The trails would be sited in areas which would not be milled in the next 20-30 years.

Some of the sites were recently deforested and replanted while others, where the trees were about six years old, had gorse and broom growing.

He had also spent time talking to community members and finding out more about the history of the area.

The signage on the trail and its branding would reflect what was unique about the town.

“The things that are really standing out about Waikaia is the goldmining, pioneering and history and I’ve seen a lot of representation of the Chinese community that was here, and there’s that kind of history of welcoming people from different places.

“Information boards on the trail .. can add a lot more interest to just a mountain bike trail.”

One of his first tasks was to decide where the start of the trail should be.

He hoped to finish the master plan by Christmas.