Mid Canterbury’s much-treasured walk to Sharplin Falls has finally reopened to the public.
When the Canterbury earthquakes struck, the area around Sharplin Falls was shaken, loosening rock above the old track.
Unstable rock crashed on to the track several times and on one occasion smashed the gantry on the walkway.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) deemed the track too unsafe to reopen and closed the track indefinitely.
That was 10 years ago.
After five years of badgering DOC to consider opening an alternative route, the Mt Somers Walkways Society decided to tackle the job themselves.
What followed was a five-year labour of love and dogged determination.
“It’s been a long wait getting back to this locally treasured destination,” society president Charles Ross said in his speech at the official opening on Friday.
It took several years to work through the red tape and get a 30-year easement and approval from DOC to build the track.
Ross said Fulton Hogan helped with “the paper war” and got the 70-page assessment of environmental effects completed.
They couldn’t have done it without that help, Ross said.
The physical on-the-ground work of building the track started in September last year and was “quite a serious proposition”.
“Thousands of hours were poured into this track,” Ross said.
The list of people who helped in some way was long, and included past and current members of the Mt Somers Walkways Society, the Sharplin Falls Track working group, and the many generous donors who provided the money needed to build the track and two new bridges.
“It’s been most humbling to see $500,000 turn up, with more given in kind.”
Ross also singled out former DOC operations manager Duncan Toogood for “breaking new ground” to get the agreement to build the track off the ground.
The various contractors who worked on the planning and building of the track also got a special mention.
Many provided “mates rates”, while some didn’t charge for their time at all.
Ross told the Guardian a number of people “put a fair bit of skin in the game” and said the society was excited to finally have the track open for people to enjoy.
But the mahi is not done for the Mt Somers Walkways Society as they take on the responsibility for the maintenance of the new track alongside the other track work they do in the area.
Ross said the members were looking forward to “getting back out there” to tackle the track maintenance and pest and weed control that they have not had much time to do while building the new track.
“We do work all around the mountain and in the Stour Valley, and the group is responsible for the South Face track on Mt Somers,” Ross said.
Local DOC operations manager Tony Preston said nationally DOC had an asset base that it was not resourced for and it was always hard to walk away from a track.
However, he had been “blown away” by the quality of work on the track.
“It’s incredible what the community has achieved together,” he said.
- By Sharon Davis