Cyclists may get access to Kepler

A section of the Kepler Track could be opened up to mountain bikers by the Department of Conservation (Doc).

The 19km section beside the Waiau River from the Lake Te Anau control gates near Te Anau to Rainbow Reach near Lake Manapouri was last year identified as a possible part of a long-discussed Te Anau-Manapouri cycle track.

Last October, Doc Te Anau contracts project manager Andrew Cudby revived the idea, which would cut the cost of the proposed track from $1 million to $300,000.

A barrier to the plan is a rule in Doc's National Park management plan preventing cyclists from riding in parks and Doc is recommending a delay in the Kepler proposal until the Fiordland plan is reviewed in five years' time.

However, a Fiordland Trails Trust member is excited about the possibility of including the Waiau section as part of a 30km loop track and is gathering messages of support to try to speed up the process.

Andy McDonald, also chairman of new biking club Te Anau Cycling Inc, said that the loop could run along an 11km Project Birdsong trapping route before returning on the Kepler Track beside the Waiau River.

"It would be an undulating intermediate trail through a very beautiful area with a lot of bird life."

If it was opened, the section of the Kepler Track - one of the Great Walks - would join the Queen Charlotte Track and the trial opening of the Heaphy Track in the Kahurangi National Park as one of a handful of tracks in national parks open to mountain bikers.

Mr Cudby said opening the Kepler Track to cyclists was "far from a foregone conclusion", but it made sense to use it rather than develop another bike trail on the other side of the Waiau River.

"The department is supportive of the trails trust proposal in relation to the link between Te Anau and Manapouri ... but that is subject to the outcome of public consultation at the time."



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