Hoof-ho: Queenstown horse-riding enthusiast Maggie Hillock and fellow riders are fuming about being kicked off trails that are now part of the national cycleway project
The much-hyped 110km walking/cycling Queenstown Trail faces a major controversy on the eve of its opening.
The sizeable Wakatipu horse-riding community is furious that they’re banned from the $5.4 million, publicly-funded track, to be officially opened by Prime Minister John Key next Thursday.
Their ban coincides with increasing concern by local horse riders about the dangers of riding on grass verges alongside country roads.
The local horse community had hoped that – like the Otago Central Rail Trail and bridleways in England – they could share the new trail with biking and walking enthusiasts.
Queenstown Lakes District Council’s trail project manager Paul Wilson says the trail wasn’t designed for horses and they’d destroy it.
‘It’s not courses for horses’ – Wilson
Queenstown Lakes District Council community services boss Paul Wilson (left) is adamant horses would destroy the new Queenstown Trail.
Wilson – who’s also the trail project manager – says horses have already damaged parts of the Gibbston River Trail.
“When the trail’s soft, horses can cause a lot of damage, very quickly.
“We want to make sure that the $5m that has been put into these trails lasts the distance – if we get a lot of horses on it, it won’t, and it will be a lot of cost to the community.”
Wilson adds some of the areas used by horse riders prior to inclusion in the national cycleway network were not legal roads.
Trails Trust chief executive Kaye Parker says her trust’s main focus for the past three years has been facilitating and funding the Queenstown Trail.
“Despite this focus, I have been working on a possible exclusive bridle trail for the past two years.
“I welcome the opportunity to meet with the horse riding community in the New Year and listen to their plans and views to develop further bridle trails.”
Parker and Wilson say horse access has already been improved in some areas, for example Coronet Forest.
The Queenstown Trail is one of 18 walking/cycling projects inspired by Prime Minister John Key. His Government stumped up about $2m for the local trail – the balance has come from council, community trusts, sponsors and fundraising.
The scenic Queenstown Trail has been promoted as a local and visitor asset and as a safe commuting option for schoolchildren.
Queenstown Trails Trust boss Kaye Parker adds the trust has provided areas for horse riding and has plans for many more including a possible exclusive bridle track.
Queenstowner Maggie Hillock says she was recently confronted by Wilson while riding her horse on part of the trail near Alec Robins Road, as she’d done for 25 years.
“His opening line was, ‘What’s a horse doing on this track?’ He said they damage the track.
“I was talking to two lovely people and they both looked along the track and we couldn’t see one hoof print from where I’d come.”
Hillock says she and her husband John support the trail – they’ve both bought bikes to use it – “but wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could all use it?
“Obviously, if people galloped along it all the time, that would be different, but if people commit to just having a leisurely stroll on their horses and being sensitive, it would be fine.”
Another 17 riders have also shared their concerns with Mountain Scene this week.
Wakatipu Riding Club member Jane Sparks maintains the original trail tender documents provided access for horses.
“I don’t know why it changed,” she says.
“Horses that are at walking speed are less dangerous than a person on a bike, sometimes,” Sparks says, pointing to cycle ruts on the Jack’s Point-Kelvin Heights track.
Sparks is concerned riders will have nowhere to go unless they brave increasingly dangerous public roads.
“Someone could lose a child round here – the roads are just horrendous.”
Long-time riding instructor Jan Tomes is also concerned about ‘No horses’ signs on sections of the trail on public land, traditionally used by horse riders.
“We’re actually being denied the opportunity to ride our horses recreationally in the Wakatipu.”
Wakatipu Riding Club president Sam Glazebrook asks: “Many of the tracks that link Queenstown and Arrowtown have been used by horse riders for years without any problems so why, now that they are being i
ncorporated into a national network, are we no longer allowed to use them?
“As riders we pay the same taxes that have gone towards these trails, and yet our interests have fallen by the wayside,” Glazebrook says.
Avid rider Kate Pirovano adds: “If horses were allowed access to these trails, because we are such a small and exclusive group we would all respect them totally, which includes kicking any manure off the track.
“My horse is extremely quiet and is very used to prams, bikes, runners and walkers, and I know that any horse person in their right sense would not take their animal on the trails if they were a danger to others.
“Horses built this district – in fact, this country.”
Tolerance, Safety and Practical Solutions
I am sure not every cyclist wants to be restricted to a velodrome...neither do all riders want to be restricted to pony club grounds or a one acre paddock. We have a beautiful country and hiking, biking and riding are a wonderful way to see it. A little tolerance and co-operation between all these groups would be in keeping of the spirit of this nation. Rules can easily be created to suit all....eg no horses in the wet seasons. A give way procedure. Etc. In Belgium bikers have to ring a bell before passing a person on foot. Pedestrians have right of way on footpaths. England shares its bridleways with pedestrians.
There will always be people that don't respect others...cyclists that run pedestrians off the track...riders that don't pick up their poo, hikers that leave litter etc etc. But the truth is that we shouldn't let the small minority ruin it for the rest of us.
I have seen a horse hit by a car and I know of cyclists too. I enjoy all three sports and I don't see any reason to stir up animosity. None of us want our kids on the road.
11 Nov 2012 06:26PMdsr40
Riders out of line
If riders are worried about traffic from the road side consider that trail users are worried about horses. To a lot of us unmounted people for whom the trails were built a horse is as bad to us as a car is to you, we can do without horses and their manure thanks.
Over $120,000 of lotto grant money went into building the pony club trails circuit on Speargrass Flat Hunter Road intersection is that not available you now? if not why not?
19 Oct 2012 04:36PMSpeargrass
but we have money, leave us alone
"because we are such a small and exclusive group we would all respect them totally, which includes kicking any manure off the track" hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha what an idiot
12 Oct 2012 11:29AMalpresidente
Totally agree with montymagoo. You horse people don't respect anything. You should not be allowed on the Queenstown Trail. You've got a hundred and one places to go which yo already do and your horses crap everywhere.
12 Oct 2012 10:54AMPatron
get over yourselfs!!
I love in the article that Kate Pirovano claims "“If horses were allowed access to these trails, because we are such a small and exclusive group we would all respect them totally, which includes kicking any manure off the track." funny because that doesnt even happen now, since the small track opened up Slope Hill Road there is always a new poo pile on it!! Also where was the funding from the riding community to help open the track and maybe then you would have been considered. Also do you have any idea of what Paul Wilson has done for the community???? Just because you have found one name to blame doesnt mean you should attack him as it is a public fund project with alot of input from everyone affected, everyone who sponsered and everyone who gave land to the project. Get over yourself riders, go make some good use of the pony club grounds, fund raise and make it a better area to use, horses may have built this country but modern time have made them a hobby!!!!!!
11 Oct 2012 06:35PMMontymagoo
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