The newest section of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is on track to be completed by the end of the year.
Work to cut and develop the new 16km track from Sailors Cutting to Benmore dam started in July.
“Three-quarters has been formed and the contractor is currently trimming and rolling the track,” Waitaki District Council recreation manager Erik van der Spek said.
“We still need to work with the forestry company currently harvesting Benmore Peninsula to complete the track through this section.”
It would be one of the “more spectacular” parts of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, providing access to areas most people had been able to get to only by boat before, Mr van der Spek said.
“The highlights are the scenery and the experience,” he said.
It would be similar in difficulty to the Tarnbrae section, between Lake Ohau Lodge and Omarama.
“A grade three experience, which is a little more difficult and isolated than most sections of the Alps 2 Ocean, but a challenge within the reach of most.
“Users will need to go prepared with appropriate equipment, food and water and not underestimate the ride – and they will likely remember it with a sense of achievement as a highlight of their ride.”
The new section bypassed Otematata, but Mr van der Spek said the council was working on a business case for taking the remainder of the trail off-road through the Waitaki Valley, including the section from Benmore dam to Aviemore dam.
At present, the trail runs along State Highway 82 in the Waimate district between the two dams.
There would be a sign at Benmore dam encouraging trail users to cycle about 5km into Otematata and the council would continue to maintain the trail along Loch Laird Rd, he said.
Because the new section was more difficult, and about 10km longer, it was “probable” the number of cyclists staying in Otematata would increase when the new section opened.
Ahuriri ward councillor Ross McRobie said it was “very important” all Waitaki Valley townships benefited from the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail.
In the longer term, the Otematata community would “very much love” the trail to officially run through the township, and be off-road from Otematata to Aviemore dam, Cr McRobie said.
“It goes through Duntroon, it goes through Kurow, it goes through Omarama, it goes through Twizel, it goes into Ohau – but it comes nowhere near Otematata, so really trying to make that happen would be a wonderful thing for the benefit of the township here, that’s for sure.
“Safety is vital, economic benefit is crucial – and the sooner it happens, the better.”