Ohakune turned on a cracking day for one of the real DOC highlights of the year down that way, the opening of the Ohakune Old Coach Road section of the Ruapehu-Whanganui cycle trail. Four hundred or more locals and school kids turned up to watch the Prime Minister John Key and a number of other dignitaries officially open the track, before setting the local mountain bike club hurtling on its way into the history books as the first group to ride in an official event on the trail.
The opening of the completed Ohakune Old Coach Road and formed Mangapurua Track was a day of shared glory between community and volunteer groups, DOC staff and contractors, who have been working hard behind the scenes (for some groups as far back as a decade) to get the tracks to where they are today. Several groups, and in particular Ohakune 2000 and Tongariro Natural History Society have been involved in the project from the early days, and it was a day of great celebration for them.
The Prime Minister really set a humorous tone with his speech, before launching into the throng of school children for photos and to give away a personally signed bike which was raffled on the day. The best thing about the speeches as a whole was just how positive they were in terms of focussing on how much faith the community has that the cycle trail will be a positive development. They really gave a sense of how important a role DOC can play in helping develop our communities, in this case by adding another component to the local tourism scene, and help bring some of the many winter skiers back in summer to enjoy the bike ride.
The completed trail will be a fantastic four-to six-day cycle tour, and will open up a stunning part of the country to tourists. When completed, this trail will take cyclists through the Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks, past the famous Bridge to Nowhere, the Hapuawhenua Viaduct and many marae along the Whanganui River Road.
When leaving town afterwards you couldn’t help but notice the sign which read “Mountain bikes for hire”. I don’t recall seeing it before, but you can bet your bottom dollar it will soon be joined by many others.