The deteriorating state of the Oamaru Walkway has been brought to the Waitaki District Council’s attention.
At a full council meeting last week, Oamaru residents Mike Sweenie and Roz Armstrong raised their concerns regarding blocked parts of the tracks, missing signage and an increasing number of mountain bikers using the walkway.
Signs directing traffic on the walkway were “obsolete or inaccurate, and missing altogether in crucial locations”, and it was disappointing it was not treated as a priority, Ms Armstrong said.
“I’ve seen the walkway gradually being devalued … and then it’s never been reinstated,” she said.
The walkway was blocked and inaccessible in five areas – Eden St to the Observatory Village, Fenwick Park North crossing Oamaru Creek, Fenwick Park to Oamaru Public Gardens, Oamaru Public Gardens to Queens Reserve rail crossing and the underpass of Severn St.
Some sections of the walkway would take a while to fix, but problems in Eden St and Observatory Village could be addressed immediately, Mr Sweenie said.
The walkway had been left as an “orphan” for years and there was sympathy from the community and council staff regarding its state, he said.
“I believe there is a will to do something about it, but I believe it may take some money, and it takes some direction, and I think that should most appropriately come from the council, since you set policy.”
He wanted the council to implement a policy to preserve and restore the walkway.
The number of mountain bikers using the track was growing, and it made for an unsafe environment on the steep parts of the walkway. A young girl was hit by a biker at Cape Wanbrow earlier this year, he said.
“Some of us are mountain bikers ourselves and we recognise that in many situations where you have a flat straight walkway, walkers and bikers can get along fine without any hazard.
“But you come at a really serious question when you get a steep and winding walkway, where mountain bikers who might be out for a thrill come down at a great speed and without being visible to people around the corner and you can have a family with children and animals walking up the other direction.”
Mr Sweenie wanted the council to discourage bikers from using the narrow and steep portions of the walkway.
Councillor Colin Wollstein visited the walkway with Mr Sweenie and said the pair had raised valid concerns.
“I certainly agree that there’s a lot of tidying up that needs to be done to make the trail more usable for tourists, and locals as well,” Cr Wollstein said.
He questioned whether signage to indicate it was a mixed-use pathway would alleviate the problem between walkers and mountain bikers.
Councillor Kelli Milmine suggested mirrors on corners could be an alternative to improve safety.
Council recreation manager Erik van der Spek said funding was available to make minor improvements this year, including signage and track marking, but access from the Oamaru Public Gardens to Isis St required a larger budget, and would be considered in the long-term plan.
“The Mountain Bike Club have also realigned some tracks and put in place additional signage to mitigate risks,” Mr van der Spek said.
Work on ways to manage conflict between bikers and walkers continued, he said.