4 Oct 2017

Christchurch cycle trail set to open

6:52 pm on 4 October 2017

The first project designed to repopulate Christchurch's residential red zone - a cycle and walking trail - is about to open.

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Avon Ōtākaro Network spokesperson Evan Smith. Photo: Rebecca O'Sullivan

Unlike most of the government's multi-million dollar anchor projects the city is still waiting to see built, this initiative has a tiny budget of just $50,000.

While its budget may be small, its ambition is large.

A trail from the centre of Christchurch, along the Avon River to the sea, has been a dream of Evan Smith's for the past three years.

The former red zone resident and Avon Ōtākaro Network spokesperson took his chance when he heard the city council was about to strengthen stopbanks along the river and asked if it would mind creating a trail along the top of them at the same time.

A $50,000 grant from the Ministry of Social Development to his group to help foster community wellbeing helped the project get over the line.

"We'd like it to be of a standard where children on bikes with training wheels, people with wheelchairs would be able to access and enjoy it, and we'd like that to be from the city right out to the sea, so the full 11km. That's still a work in progress, there's a lot more to be done to complete the job."

Keen to get the trail open for cyclists and walkers in time for summer, Mr Smith said an official opening would happen in the middle of October while work continued on finishing the entire length of it.

He said the trail was a gift to the city's east and those living on the edge of the red zone who had done it tough since the quakes.

"In the future they will have the most sought after houses in Christchurch. This will be a wonderful corridor ... it's taken some time, they've had to go through six or seven years of it being a war zone and it's been a real scar through the east.

"But it's gradually healing, and I think it will continue healing from now on."

He said the pathway from the city to the sea would also help unite the west of the city with those in the east.

"I think it is already. It will encourage people from the west side of town to come exploring in the east but also give people in the east access to the west as well and to the city. It's connecting the city to the coastline which I think is really important."

The project means a lot to Mr Smith, who raised his family in one of the 8000 homes that were demolished after the government decided the land was unsuitable to rebuild on again.

"I can still remember the house being here quite vividly and the back yard and where the kids used to play ... it's still very real. There's really meaningful pieces of the landscape still here that have some significance."

The trail will be officially opened on 15 October with groups starting at either end and meeting in the middle.

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