By Lesley Judd, Partnerships Ranger.
The Great Walks season is now underway in Whanganui and our staff are putting the final touches to a massive three months of clean up work.
Record floods in late June caused the immediate closure of all tracks, huts and campsites in the Whanganui district until inspections could be carried out to assess the damage and any potential risk to visitors.
Campsites on the iconic Whanganui Journey received a liberal coating of silt, signs were washed away and toilets damaged. Worst hit was John Coull Hut where a huge slip destroyed the boardwalk between the hut and campsite, closing the site.
This amount of work would normally take many months to complete, but with less than 12 weeks until the start of the busy Great Walks season, the pressure was on to get our facilities open for visitors to enjoy, and to allow local tourism businesses to get back to providing their fantastic services.
Armed with photos, notebooks detailing the damage, and an impressive spreadsheet, a grand plan was hatched deep inside the Whanganui Office at the desk of senior recreation ranger Jim Campbell.
Jim wrangled engineers and planners, persuaded accountants, organised diggers, helicopters and dynamite, and enlisted a small army of hardy folk to get cracking on the repairs.
Abseiling and blasting specialists were brought in to clear some particularly gnarly slips on the Mangapurua Track, the rest were cleared by diggers, shovels, muscle and sweat.
We focussed on repairing John Coull Hut and the Bridge to Nowhere Track before the Whanganui Journey opened for summer. A hardworking contractor crew from Pipiriki got stuck into clearing the lower end of the Mangapurua Track, and a digger operator dealt to the many slips and washouts on the upper section of the track.
Our neighbours from the Manawatu Office also pitched in and sent three staff to work with our Whanganui chainsaw crew clearing windfalls on the Matemateāonga Track.
Our field teams have worked tirelessly at John Coull Hut, the Bridge to Nowhere Track and the Mangapurua Track. They spent long hours and most of winter camped out onsite clearing slips, digging drains and repairing signs and toilets.
The transformations are Extreme Makeover worthy and a real credit to the skills and hard work of the clean up teams.
We are happy to report the Whanganui Journey is open for the Great Walks season, and we aim to have the Mangapurua Cycle Trail fully open within the next couple of weeks.
After three months of hard yakka we look forward to the sights and sounds of groups of paddlers, cyclists and trampers experiencing the Whanganui National Park this summer.
Keep an eye on the Whanganui pages on the DOC website for the status of our tracks.