New cycle trails all about balance

The old railway tunnel under Big Hill on the Clutha Gold Trail. Photo by John Fridd.
The old railway tunnel under Big Hill on the Clutha Gold Trail. Photo by John Fridd.
The Roxburgh Gorge Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail have been an exercise in balancing preservation with public access.

Matt Schmidt, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) Otago/Southland regional archaeologist who provided expertise and advice on the various sites and artefacts affected, says the trails traverse areas of great historical significance, from paths used by Maori several hundred years ago to the relatively more recent gold rush, which was sparked when Gabriel Read discovered gold near Lawrence on May 25,1861.

''It is a balancing act,'' Dr Schmidt says.

''You want to educate people but you also need to ensure that some more sensitive sites aren't too well-advertised, you could say.

''That's why at the very start of discussions about the trails, there had to be heritage assessments done, to establish what heritage sites were there and how those sites could be managed.

''One of these things the NZHPT recommended was that there would not be interpretation panels here, there and everywhere, because one of the things that is quite beautiful about this landscape is the sense of isolation.

''There will be panels at certain locations, some of which will give a general idea of what has gone on, while others will be quite specific. But you also want to allow for a sense of discovery.''

A sense of public ''buy-in'' to the historical value of the area is also important, Dr Schmidt notes.

''What you get with these sorts of trails - and this has been found with the Otago Central Rail Trail - is that when the public is allowed access they respect the fact it is for visitors. That helps protect these sites. There is a self-policing aspect to the sites.

''The thing is, if you don't do these trails, you won't know about the heritage. That's the best way to promote heritage. It brings people into the area as well.''


Opening day

A range of activities will mark the official opening of the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and Clutha Gold Trail on Thursday.

The day's festivities begin with breakfast at Monteith's Brewery Bar, Alexandra, from 8am to celebrate the opening of the Roxburgh Gorge Trail.

At 9am, attendees will walk to the start of the Roxburgh Gorge Trail where Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper will cut the ribbon and those wishing to cycle the trail will set off on a ride that includes 22km of cycling and a 10km boat trip.

At midday, the official opening of both the Clutha Gold Trail and Roxburgh Gorge Trail will take place at Commissioner Flat at Roxburgh East, south of the Roxburgh dam, after which riders will depart for the first official ride of the Clutha Gold Trail to Lawrence.

At 4.30pm those wishing to go for a 5km ride will set off from Evans Flat for Lawrence, where Deputy Prime Minister and MP for Clutha-Southland Bill English will cut the ribbon at the start of the Clutha Gold Trail before a community barbecue is held at Simpson Park, Lawrence.

• To join the Roxburgh Gorge Trail ride, a boat booking ($35 per person) is required.

Contact Alexandra i-SITE, (03) 448-9515.(For the 5km Evans Flat to Lawrence ride, please register your intention to ride at the Lawrence Information Centre (03) 485-9222.





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