Trails a tale of en­deav­our

River cap­tured for ev­ery­one

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE -

The Waikato River Trails Grand Open­ing was cel­e­brated by close to 300 peo­ple at the week­end at the Whaka­maru Re­serve.

Waikato River Trails chair­woman Ali Van der Hey­den, who has been de­scribed as the back­bone of the trail jour­ney, told the crowd it was with the help of the staff and trustees that the open­ing was able to hap­pen.

‘‘We have taken a big jour­ney and it’s not over yet. It has been com­mu­nity driven, the whole project. Fund­ing has been from South Waikato and Waikato com­mu­ni­ties. It’s not just about build­ing trails it’s about bring­ing the river back and the best way to do it is to ed­u­cate and teach peo­ple by en­joy­ing it.’’

Miss Van der Hey­den thanked Ngati Raukawa for their sup­port; the dig­ni­taries who at­tended and all those who sup­ported the Waikato River Trails.

‘‘You can build a trail,’’ Miss Van der Hey­den said, ‘‘ you can build a cy­cle way or a walk way and then you carry on, that’s not what this is. Just in the last few months we have planted more than 6000 trees.

‘‘Any­one could plant a tree but it’s who plants them. We have had Waotu School, For­est View High School, Toko­roa High School, we have had Her­man (Van Rooi­jen) our co-opted trustee and his band of peo­ple. They have so much knowl­edge and they are pass­ing that on to new gen­er­a­tions who will learn.’’

The Waikato River Trails put 99 un­em­ployed peo­ple into work.

‘‘Forty per­cent of them are now in full­time em­ploy­ment. I don’t think there are many projects that can lay claim to that,’’ she said.

Former South Waikato District Mayor Gor­don Blake, who is a Waikato River Trails trustee, was ec­static with the turnout.

‘‘This is mar­vel­lous to see it grow from an idea eight years ago to this. It was back when there was the forestry down­turn when we were look­ing for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. There was quite a lot of un­em­ploy­ment and we thought to do some­thing like this so we can get some of the un­em­ployed into do­ing some­thing mean­ing­ful and, as Miss Van der Hey­den said, 40 per­cent picked up per­ma­nent work. This is pos­i­tive and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment will flow from it. We haven’t fin­ished yet.’’

Olympic Gold medal­list Sarah Ulmer, the am­bas­sador for Nga Haerenga, the New Zealand Cy­cle Trail project also got her bike out to en­joy the trail.

Miss Van der Hey­den said the day was a trib­ute to all who had sup­ported the trails and thanked Mighty River Power, South Waikato District Coun­cil and all who had helped.

JOUR­NEY BE­GINS: Waikato River Trails chair­woman Ali Van der Hey­den with Olympic Gold medal­list Sarah Ulmer at the open­ing of the Waikato River Trails.

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