Loop track may close

The Fernhill Loop Track, in the Ben Lomond Reserve, looks likely to be closed, following a report to the Queenstown Lakes District Council community services committee from district forester Briana Pringle.

Until recently, the 5.6km track was under Department of Conservation management, but is predominantly on council land.

Due to new recreational framework within the department, it had re-evaluated its involvement in the track and classified it as "an urban track, more suited to QLDC administration".

The track begins at Wynyard Cres in Fernhill and follows an old forestry road into the conifer forest, where it becomes a single track and steeply ascends to a clearing.

It then crosses One Mile stream, continuing through beech forest to the midway clearing in the Ben Lomond Reserve.

Ms Pringle's report said Doc ceased maintenance on the dual track, used by mountain bikers and walkers, early last year and handed it over to the council in December.

Last winter's snowfalls had pushed and condensed old broom across the forestry road, which had made the track impassable from the Fernhill end.

There was also large native beech forest windfall across the top sections of the trail.

Ms Pringle said the track was used for recreation, rather than as an access way to reach Fernhill from Queenstown.

If the council were to take over the track, work would be required to bring it up to standard, with "significant costs" associated with clearing the first 2km of overgrown broom.

"The trail up through the forest would then need to be upgraded, track scouring from water run-off would have to be addressed, the current culverts cleared and upgraded in places and the old footbridges would have to be brought up to standard.

"The trail would also require new QLDC signage."

It was estimated the total cost to upgrade the track was $21,660.

Further, ongoing maintenance would require two inspections annually by a "two-man edging team" followed by a two-man arborist team, estimated to cost $2200 per annum.

"Due to the costs of bringing this track up to standard and maintaining the trail to QLDC standard, we are proposing that the trail be closed," Ms Pringle's report said.

Consultation around the closure was carried out with Skyline, the Queenstown Trails Trust and the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club.

One option considered was to hand maintenance of the track to the Mountain Bike Club or Queenstown Bike Park.

However, that had been discounted because of a lack of funding for maintenance of existing trails.

"From the consultation, we are proposing that for now the trail be closed and if and when in the future funding becomes available, the trail could be reopened for use."

The closure would not affect the One Mile Track to the midway clearing.

The committee will discuss the closure at its meeting in Queenstown tomorrow.


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