The Department of Conservation will close the Chasm Track from Monday 2 July to Sunday 30 September to undertake a major makeover of the track. The 50 year old track, on the road to Milford Sound attracts over 400,000 visitors each year and is due for a major upgrade including the replacement of the old concrete track surface.
“By my calculation the current track has seen over 5 million pairs of feet, so has stood up well, but its time to get it back up to a good standard for all the visitors and businesses using it,” said DOC Ranger Ken Bradley. “This is the only wilderness walking experience for a lot of visitors to New Zealand, so we want to ensure it is a good one”.
Mr Bradley said DOC had chosen the quietest time of the year to undertake the upgrade, but as parts of the track will be totally removed and realigned, for the safety of visitors and staff it would be closed for 3 months.
Donald Sutherland, the original ‘Mayor of Milford Sound’ took visitors to the Chasm in the 1890s, but the first ‘formed track’ was constructed in Milford Road construction era around 1937-38, when the trunks of punga were laid as surface material. In the 1960’s the National Park Board formed the current concrete track, but other than a few bridges built in 1984, no other major works had been undertaken on the track.
DOC’s work on the track will start with the removal of the existing concrete surface. The crushed concrete will be used to create a raised track with a more even gradient. It will be finished with timber edging and a compacted crushed gravel surface. The finished track will be easier for walkers, more in tune with the surrounding environment, and able to handle the high rainfall of the area.
The project is expected to take around three months to complete. Although the Chasm will be closed, Mr Bradley pointed out there would still be plenty of other walking opportunities for visitors, including Mirror lakes, the Milford Foreshore walk, the Lake Marion Gantry and Pops View Lookout.