Senior Park Ranger Steven Peters with trail walker Rosamund Averton and mountain biker John Randal
Produced as part of Branch Out newsletter - Summer 2011
Volunteer to create trails
Fancy doing some hard labour cracking rocks in your lunch hour? John Randal does. Every Wednesday at lunchtime he swaps his suit - from his day job as senior lecturer at Victoria University's School of Economics and Finance - for shorts and a t-shirt, throws a grubber over his shoulder, jumps on his bike and rides to either Mount Victoria or Polhill Reserve. There he spends a good hour digging and clearing scrub.
No, Randal isn't on some kind of periodic detention or community service sentence. He's one of many mountain bikers adding trails in and around Wellington City Council reserves. He's also the head of a newly formed mountain bike group, Wellington Trails Alliance (WTA), which is a collective of trail builders from the Wellington region. The tracks are planned in consultation with Council parks staff and aren't exclusively for mountain bikers - recreational walkers and trail runners are big users as well. Part of WTA's and Council's message is the trails are there for everyone's use.
Trail networks have been extended all over Wellington, particularly on the Town Belt, Polhill Reserve and Miramar Peninsula.
John says the group has around 150 core volunteers who spend a couple of hours at the weekends, after work or during lunch-breaks trail building.
"Depending on the terrain, we can dig two to three metres an hour. We provide the tools, food and drink. It can be pretty labour intensive, so most people can only dig for an hour."
Tracks are designed so as not to disturb native plants and are dug to a certain width so there's plenty of room for everyone.
Polhill Reserve, which runs from Aro Valley up to the Brooklyn wind turbine and Zealandia, is a great example of how WTA's members have transformed an area. The original trail network in this reserve was pretty basic and closed to mountain bikers. Volunteers, led by riders and assisted by runners and walkers, built 5.5km of track, which has increased the use of the reserve remarkably.
"These new tracks created an interest in the reserve. The majority are under native canopy and there's a wealth of birdlife thanks to the Zealandia sanctuary being next door," says John. "The new tracks also provide a commuter route to the city from Brooklyn, Highbury and Northland."
Miramar Peninsula is another new area John is particularly proud of - 2.5km of "beautiful tracks". They include the highly regarded downhill track - Jail Brake (a wry nod to Wellington Prison that sits atop Miramar Peninsula) and a kids' skills area that has become a destination for those learning to ride their bikes.
He says WTA's goal is to eventually connect the city to all suburbs and the suburbs to one another. "We want everyone to have an off-road option no matter where they live."
If you want to get involved in helping extend Wellington's off-road network, contact Wellington Trails Alliance on firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook:
Wellington Trails Alliance - Facebook