Trails a tale of endeavour
River captured for everyone
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.