Work on the first leg of a Manawatu Riverside walking and cycling track is expected to begin this summer, at the Ashhurst end of the project.
Negotiations between the Palmerston North City Council and three landowners are progressing, and transportation planner Sandi Morris hopes an access path will be cleared this month.
The neighbouring properties will be fenced off before the track construction begins in earnest, creating a link to the end of Raukawa Rd.
And further downstream, the council has made a strategic purchase of a 7800 square metre Te Matai Rd property that will provide a key link as the track is extended toward the city.
The property not only provides a 270-metre strip along the water's edge, but also an access point to the road, which will give people who do not want to walk or cycle the whole distance another entry and exit point.
Road planning team leader David Lane said the property would be a "staging point" on the future track.
"It will be an important link from the road to encourage recreational users."
Mr Lane said the council had already identified the property as a key one for the track development, and took the opportunity to buy it after it came onto the market last year.
The council had to negotiate with many more landowners with before the track could be built, he said.
It was unlikely to buy many other properties outright, and would consider either buying a narrow strip along the river, or negotiate easements that gave right of public access.
The exercise was complicated as not all of the boundaries ended in the same place, with some properties stretching right across the river.
Work at the Ashhurst Bridge access to the track will start within weeks. The first step would be to clear some vegetation.
Ms Morris said after the fencing contractors had been in, construction of the track would proceed quickly.
"We think it should only take six to eight weeks, maximum.
"Building the track is the easy bit. It's the negotiations and organising that take time."
A fine autumn with not too much rain would enable work to continue until the end of May, if necessary.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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