Cycle trail numbers booming

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The Tasman Great Taste Trail continues to increase in popularity with a almost quarter of a million cyclists using the coastal section of trail last year, up 19 per cent on 2014.

“In 2014 our counters recorded 188,000 users and in 2015 they recorded 224,000 users,” chair of the Nelson Tasman Cycle Trust Gillian Wratt says.

Numbers were particularly strong over the Christmas period, when locals and out-of-town visitors enjoyed the region by bike. Counters recorded 13,000 users during the 11 day Christmas and New Year period compared with 9000 for the previous year.

Kaiteriteri is a particularly popular section, with user numbers tripling, compared with this period 12 months ago.

Gillian says ”the whole thing is ticking over nicely and businesses along the cycle trail are reaping the benefits”.

Nicky McBride of Wheelie Fantastic, located at Mapua, says “the number of international cyclists had noticeably increased this year. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. People have heard about the great scenery and accessible riding on offer in the Nelson region”.

“We expect numbers to continue to grow. It is our fifth season and it is shaping up to be our busiest”.

Research by Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology reinforces increased cycle trail use, particularly by those from outside the region. The Institute has been working with the Trust this month to find out views of cyclists about the Trail using an intercept survey.

Many who responded were regular cyclists who rode trails elsewhere in New Zealand and overseas and they thought our local Trail was one of the best.

“This year we are seeing an increase in users from other parts of New Zealand and overseas.  Users are very satisfied with their overall experience and can’t wait to see the loop completed,” Gillian says.

Tasman’s Great Taste Trail is part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail (NZCT) project across New Zealand. “The initiative has three primary objectives” she says.

“The first is to create jobs through the construction and maintenance of a cycle network. Tasman’s Great Taste Trail now has 92km of trail”.

“The second is to create a high-quality asset to enhance New Zealand’s competitiveness as a tourism destination and provide local economic development opportunities. Our trail is doing this and the Nelson Tasman region is regarded as a cycling Mecca.”

“Finally, the project aims for community well-being and engagement. The high user numbers are testament to the value of the cycle trail”.

Work has started on Stage 2 of the Trail, to connect Wakefield through Tapawera to Woodstock (51km), and Woodstock to Riwaka (30km) establishing the full  loop.

The Trust’s current efforts are on constructing the section from Wai-iti through Spooners tunnel to Norris Gully, and raising funds for the rest of Stage 2.  Tasman District Council has made provision for investment in the Trail in their Long Term Plan.

“The tunnel is a historic gem that has not been accessible since the mid-1950s. It will be very exciting to get the 1.4km Spooners Tunnel open to the public. We hope to achieve this by April of this year” Gillian says.

For the 13,000 riders who made it to Wakefield in 2015, there will another reason to return and go further south to experience cycling through Spooners Tunnel. This is the 5th longest tunnel open to cycling and walking in the world and the longest in the southern hemisphere.