Whataupoko trails a tribute to volunteers
Without the enthusiasm of Bernie Vette the popular Whataupoko park trails, used by hundreds of mountain bikers, walkers and runners each month, may not have been developed. Bernie has volunteered thousands of hours over the last 7 years to develop this area and has been the driving force behind getting other volunteers on board. "I saw an opportunity to create a great asset for the Gisborne community on this unused land. This was a project I could really get my teeth into and it has been very rewarding," said Mr Vette.
"The commitment of Murray and Trish Aitkens from Dirtworx has been an important part of getting things moving. They originally got involved cutting the Village Trail. This trail was sponsored by the Ballance Village shops and the Gisborne District Council," Mr Vette acknowledged. "Murray and Trish remained enthusiastic about the project and have worked on it for the past 6 years volunteering their time and machinery. We have also been ably assisted by Walter Gorza who has been my legs and Jenny Allen from the Council who has been very supportive getting our plans approved and sorting out any issues we have had. Council has also funded the more difficult work," Mr Vette added.
Whataupoko park (Langford Fallon reserve) was purchased by Gisborne District Council in 1991 and 1992, as the hillside had been unstable and threatened to slip onto the houses below in Seddon Crescent and Fox Street. The reserve was then planted in exotic trees which are now well established. When Council consulted with the community on what should happen with this new park in 2001, there was considerable support from the mountain biking community to establish mountain bike trials. Despite a group forming to make this happen, no work was started until 2003 when Mr Vette, along with a handful of volunteers, came on board.
"Bernie made a plan of the overall reserve and worked out where the trails would go," said Jenny Allen council reserves supervisor. "Working collaboratively with council, the first trails were developed. The trails have been made as interesting as the terrain will allow but managing water run off has been a big issue in this area. The trails had to be planned to meet the conditions set under the resource consent. Bernie has been aware of the requirements and worked to ensure they are met. Along with Murray, Trish and Walter countless man and machinery hours and have been volunteered to bring the trails to where they are today. It has been a real partnership. Council has grassed the surface of the trails to keep the park looking natural and so the trails can be mowed regularly. Waterproofing the trails and improving the drainage still continues. We are at a stage now where the tracks are dry 12 months of the year and the ponding that was an issue is largely resolved. We need the public's help to keep it that way,' said Mrs Allen.
It has been a satisfying project for the team of volunteers involved. "We get a lot of satisfaction seeing an area that was once farmland now transformed into a great community asset. There are lots of options for people to use the trails to get active. From the original one kilometre farm track, there are now 7 kilometres of trails. They are well known as mountain bike trails but in fact 90% of users walk the trails. Best of all it's right on our back door step, close to the central city," said Mr Vette.
"It has taken approximately one year to develop each trail. That puts into context just how much work is involved. What we ask from park users now is that they respect the work done and take care of the place. There have been instances where people have cut down trees and dug their own trails especially down the gully area. Apart from the fact that any further trails are not consented, what they don't understand is that the tracks have been designed to direct the flow of water away from the park. Digging other trails puts this in jeopardy and chopping down trees destabilises the hill. Our current work is planting 100 flaxes donated by council to stop the land slipping," Mr Vette added.