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A nearly $10million expansion of one of Otago’s popular cycle trails has begun.
After years of discussion, fundraising and behind-the-scenes work, the proposed extension of the Clutha Gold Trail from Lawrence to Waihola is a real prospect now work is visible to motorists driving along State Highway 8 through the Manuka Gorge.
The new $9.6million section of the Clutha Gold Great Ride Cycle Trail will expand the length of it from 73km to a total of 136km, adding a new section that runs from Lawrence to Waihola via Milton.
Central Otago Clutha Trails Limited board member Murray Paterson said the new extension would make the trail a true multi-day trip for cyclists.
"When it’s finished and linked to the Roxburgh Gorge trail (22km) and the soon-to-be-opened Lake Dunstan trail, which will add another 60km of rideable trail, it will all become a great multi-day [option] for visitors and those wanting to experience the beauty we have here in Clutha," he said.
Contractors had started clearing bush and creating a base layer for the cycle track’s final top surface.
Mr Paterson said he was very happy construction was under way.
"The trail now comes through the Mt Stuart Reserve, an area that’s been a real highlight to many people in this area and now with the trail coming through it, it will be a place for families to came, park up and take short rides of the trail while they enjoy all the wonderful scenery here."
Trails secretary Jill Allison was happy the trail went through the reserve as she saw it becoming a haven for families to have a day out riding safely away from roads.
Mr Paterson said numbers using the trail, which opened in 2017, were initially slow to start but now people had realised what a great scenic trail it was to ride on, and numbers had been steadily climbing.
"People have discovered that there was much more to see on these trails, compared to other rides that just go along straight tracks for miles. The trails we have here twist and turn and you don’t know what you might see around the next bend, the terrain is so different the further you go along it.
One highlight of the new section will be the ride through the Manuka Gorge and its two railway tunnels, he said.
"We are very grateful to all the people who have helped make this project work, and this includes all the landowners who have given their land generously," he said.