A national roading nightmare has turned into a gift for walkers, runners and cyclists, the Department of Conservation says.
When mud slid down the side of the gorge in August 2011, blocking the road for about 13 months, no one could have foreseen that it was fortuitous for nature lovers.
DOC's visitor assets programme manager Andrew Mercer, who took the Manawatu Standard on a tour of the track yesterday, said it was created to help contractors bring heavy machinery and diesel to the top of the site but was now being transformed into a walking track.
The track will be shared by cyclists and would create a loop so people could return to the carpark they started from, he said.
It is still under construction but diggers are slicing a track through the bush that will be open by Christmas.
A 4-metre-wide track had to be created by NZTA to get equipment to the worksite. It had been done carefully, saving as many trees as possible.
The end result was something Mr Mercer realised could be part of a bigger legacy to the community.
There were always plans in place for a designated cycle track and an idea about extra walkways in the back of his mind, but it had seemed a pipe dream until the slip, he said.
"Now it's brought plans forward years. I never dreamed it would come about this quickly."
Looking past the orange plastic fences and tape, a lime-covered track dotted with steps leads down to a lookout point at the top of the slip benching steps.
People will be able to view the road and river and see the engineering that has taken place to keep the soil in place.
Mr Mercer said he was impressed with the effort NZTA had put in to leave behind as small a footprint as possible.
More than 23,000 people a year walk the gorge track.
Mr Mercer said that number had tapered off during the period when the gorge was closed.
"It's coming back again slowly and we hope it will get up to normality again."
Mr Mercer said having such a multipurpose track could create opportunities in the future for triathlons or Ironman events.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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