Omakau resident Stephen Wood , a member of the Cycling
Advocates Network, arrives on his bike for the first Otago
Central Rail Trail workshop. Photo by Lynda Van Kempen.
The popularity of the Otago Central Rail Trail shows no
signs of waning, despite anecdotal reports of demand dropping
or levelling off during the past season.
More than 120 people attended the first workshop on the
future of the trail, held at Omakau on Friday, and were told
user numbers had increased for the past two years.
The 150km walking and cycling trail from Clyde to Middlemarch
is maintained and developed by the Department of Conservation
and the Otago Central Rail Trail Trust.
Doc Central Otago manager Mike Tubbs said electronic counters
along the trail recorded user numbers. Figures for the use of
the whole trail were based on an average over four "remote"
locations, where people were likely to travel if they were
completing the entire trail.
The number of people using the trail in the year ending June
30, 2010 was 12,157, compared with 10,058 the previous year.
In the past seven years, an increase was recorded each year
except 2008-09, when the number declined by 880 on the
previous year. Mr Tubbs said the most recent figures, until
the end of March this year, showed an increase in patronage.
People from throughout Otago attended the forum, with local
authorities, trail business operators, tourism and promotion
groups, Chamber of Commerce, cycle groups, environmental
organisations and service groups all represented. A strategic
plan for the future of the trail, based on the feedback at
the forum, will be prepared.
Trail trust chairwoman Daphne Hull was delighted at the
diversity of groups represented and the views aired.
"I look forward to seeing the report, which will highlight
the common ground. The general feeling from the forum was
that people are happy with the trail as it is - there was no
push to seal it, for example. The next challenge will be
promotion and marketing and there's very differing views
about who should be responsible for that and how it should be
The trust and Doc fund the maintenance and development of the
trail, which costs about $316,600 a year.
Mrs Hull and Mr Tubbs told the forum that although their
respective organisations promoted the trail, they did not
have a budget for marketing.
"The website is our main marketing tool and our trail
passports are another strong promotional tool," Mrs Hull