Mountain bikers want more time on the Heaphy
Mountain biking on the Heaphy Track might be extended following mostly positive feedback during a three-year winter trial.
Mountain bikers have keenly taken up the chance to ride the Heaphy Track, with about 5750 people riding the track during the trial that ended on September 30.
Conservation advisory bodies will consider in the next few months whether mountain biking should continue on the 78 km track and two other Kahurangi National Park tracks.
Although this year's Heaphy Track biking season has finished, mountain bikers can still ride the Flora Saddle to Barron Flat and Kill Devil tracks, where it is allowed year-round.
A DOC report supports mountain biking continuing on the Heaphy and the other two tracks.
The report recommends consideration be given to extending the Heaphy Track mountain bike season to run from March 1 to November 30, excluding Easter, when the Kahurangi National Park management plan is next reviewed, which would allow for public comment on the proposal.
The track was open from May 1 to September 30 for the trial.
Forest and Bird said it has some concerns about mountain biking in the park, including its impact on Powelliphanta snails. It would be meeting DOC to discuss those concerns this week.
The proposal to lengthen the period that the track could be ridden by bikers was welcomed by Mountain Bike New Zealand land access committee member Bryce Buckland.
Mountain bikers have campaigned for a number of years for mountain bikers to be allowed access to the track, which is considered one of best multi-day back-country single-track rides in New Zealand. Mr Buckland said high numbers of bikers had used the track and had raved about the experience.
He believed the trial had been a success.
He supported the mountain biking season on the track being extended each end as it would allow bikers access to the track in slightly warmer lighter weather when the track was still not in its busy time for walkers.
Regional field officer Debs Martin said one of the concerns Forest and Bird had was that the track had been upgraded to a mountain biking standard during what was supposed to be a trial period.
Mountain bikers had given $10,000 to the upgrade.
A track made harder for mountain bikers was harder on hips and knees of walkers who carried packs.
She said there had been problems with mountain bikers cutting up the track and taking short cuts through rivers rather than using the bridges or other crossings provided.
Forest and Bird was also concerned about the numbers of Powelliphanta snails that had been crushed on the track.
The giant snails, that come out in wet weather, were harder for mountain bikers travelling faster than walkers to avoid.
While mountain biking was not allowed at night to protect the snails there had been some trouble with mountain bikers riding at night.
She said mountain biking was growing in popularity and some members were worried about mountain biking in national parks.
The report will be discussed at conservation board meetings in October and November and board recommendations will go to the New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) for its December 11-12 meeting to make final decisions in consultation with the Minister of Conservation.
DOC Nelson District Conservation partnerships manager Martin Rodd said DOC was pleased with how the mountain biking trials had gone.
"It has been great to see more people getting out and enjoying these outstanding tracks.
"The Heaphy Track was by far the most sought-after ride, with low numbers biking the Flora Saddle to Barron Flat and Kill Devil trails.
"Minimal difficulty with walkers and mountain bikers sharing the track was reported and they were mostly considerate with each other.
"Although some riding at fast, unsafe speeds was reported, overall mountain biker compliance with the rules and mountain bikers' code of conduct was high.
"We consider some monitoring needs to continue to manage potential impacts from mountain biking.
"Our DOC report recommends continuing to invite feedback from walkers and mountain bikers to monitor their track experience.
"We also recommend continuing to monitor mountain biking impacts on Powelliphanta snails."
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