Families with young children and off-road wheelchair users will enjoy greater access to the iconic backcountry of the St James Conservation Area thanks to a project initiated by Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson.
The project will see a section of the St James Cycle Trail upgraded to make it suitable for those unable to follow the longer trail.
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View looking down Peters Valley, where the loop track will pass
“New Zealand has the most stunning scenery in the world and I was really concerned to think those with physical disability or young children would be prevented from experiencing our amazing back country,” Ms Wilkinson says.
The 64km-long cycle trail passes through the magnificent grassland valleys, river valleys and beech forest of the St James Conservation Area, near the tourist town of Hanmer Springs.
Work is soon to begin widening and adding to part of the trail to create the 15km “Homestead Run” loop track.
“The loop will offer a taste of the trail for people with less time, less experience and those who are unable to negotiate the longer trail,” Ms Wilkinson says.
“With a 1.5m wide track and easier gradients, it will be ideal for parents to push buggies and for people in off-road wheelchairs. This more accessible backcountry experience will also benefit the booming local tourism industry.”
The ‘Homestead Run’ loop track will start and finish at the St James Homestead. It will take in the last 7km section of the existing cycle trail up the scenic Peters Valley, then along the Edwards Valley 4WD track to Tophouse Road, leading back to the homestead.
The new dual purpose track is expected to cost around $170,000; with $100,000 coming from the Ministry of Economic Development’s New Zealand Cycle Trail project, and $70,000 from the Department of Conservation (DOC).
DOC is about to call for tenders for this work, and the project is expected to be completed in time for summer.