Heritage park idea gaining traction, team says

Strath Taieri Heritage Park concept development team members Jacquie Lucas and Richard Emerson...
Strath Taieri Heritage Park concept development team members Jacquie Lucas and Richard Emerson. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Plans for a Strath Taieri heritage park are building a good head of steam, as Lakes District businesses show an interest in expanding into Middlemarch.

Concept development team member Jacquie Lucas said the Covid-19 lockdown had held up development of the heritage park, but plans were now progressing well.

"We believe in the project even more now, as a result of talking to people.

"I’ve been talking with ... some people that have got businesses in Queenstown that might be looking for another site to diversify."

It was still too early to say who had shown interest, she said.

However, in another exciting development Destination Dunedin was working on a touring route from Dunedin to Central Otago, via Strath Taieri.

"So this is a really good scenario for bringing people into our area and giving them something interesting to do, because it was very obvious to us that Middlemarch didn’t have a really good attraction that was going to be enough to keep all its infrastructure."

Initiatives that had been suggested so far included family-safe outdoor activities such as walkways, parks, bike tracks, flying foxes, dress-ups for old-time photos, and opportunities to see how an old bakery, a sheep shearing shed and farm dogs work.

Other attractions would focus on the natural resources and historic places in the area, and celebrate the railway history in the valley, including the work of railway preservation society Project Steam.

Ms Lucas said Middlemarch resident Richard Emerson was continuing to collect rolling stock and equipment for Project Steam, and it was hoped a train would be ready to run excursions from Middlemarch to Sutton within the next 12 months.

"That is ideally what we would like to do in the first stage, and then in the future move to doing Middlemarch to Pukerangi.

"We are aware that with the mothballing of the railway line, there are some people to talk to regarding that, about having access to that line."

She said the concept development group was now inviting participation from people and groups that share in the vision of “valuing the past as preservation of the future”.

"To be a successful venture, it is going to take passionate people working with those that want to contribute time, ideas, items and resources."

"Simply put, we see the Strath Taieri Heritage Park as a tribute to the cornerstones of Otago heritage that can preserve and build understanding for future generations.

"From the historic places to the natural resources, the railway opportunity and farming story, we believe it is a good time to build a venture that can showcase, educate, employ future generations and entertain visitors to the park.

"It is about building a venture that can enrich the lives of Otagoites and visitors to our region by preserving history in an interactive Heritage Park that we are all proud of."

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