Hong Kong gets new trails
A CONTROVERSIAL reclamation project announced in Hong Kong may offer potential for new hiking, cycling and mountain biking trails on Lantau Island. The scheme aims to address forecast housing needs by spending an estimated HK$500 billion to reclaim 1,700 hectares in waters off the eastern end of the island. The largest of the territories’ 200+ islands, Lantau has long been a favourite with bikers and the plans (shown below) reveal how recreational opportunities are to be developed on the south of Lantau, to balance all the urban development. Proposed mountain biking trails include a beginner trail from Fan Lau to Tung Chung Bay; gentler, Mtb-friendly sub-trails splitting from the existing, all-concrete, steep Olympic Trail from Tai Ho to Mui Wo; a 10-hectare training ground in Mui Wo; and connectors in and out of Chi Ma Wan. Together, these will create a 37km loop around the island. Then, as now, connecting to these trails may still be problematic. Currently, for instance, there’s no way for mountain bikers to legally access the South Lantau trails without riding over Tung Chung Road, an increasingly busy and steeply inclined road over the island’s spine. All current trails are also bi-directional and shared with hikers and local villagers, and aside from the Chi Ma Wan section, are mixed with concreted sections – not mountain bike trails by definition, as says Hong Kong Mountain Bike Association Director of Trail Development, Nick Dover. Still, according to him, it’s a fact the community has accepted, “so long as there’s a way for people to get around the island without climbing steep hills or using illegal trails”. Another problem, says Dover, is erosion: “Bikers ride in a certain way: when we see concrete, we ride on the side, which makes a gulley, which exacerbates the erosion,” he says. “The methods that [the government] is using to build sustainable trails are archaic and rigid. The typical tendering process and construction methods in Hong Kong aren’t suitable for trail building. It’s a lot of red tape…sub-contractors, engineering. The Hong Kong government is very good at building bridges and high-rises but simple things like trails and soil is too simple for them.” Though admittedly b othered that the project is grouped with the behemoth urban development north and east of the island, Dover is excited about the Mui Wo Training Ground – something he calls: “Ground breaking, because it’ll have something for everyone like kids’ tracks, flow trails and jump lines”.