15 Sep 2020

Hawke's Bay community says mountain bike park plan 'disastrously bad idea'

10:55 am on 15 September 2020

A Hawke's Bay community fear their beloved park will be gone forever if a proposal to transform it into a mountain bike hub goes ahead.

Eskdale Park could turn into a mountain bike park under a Hastings District Council proposal.

Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

About 900 people in Eskdale have signed a petition to stop the development, and accuse the Hastings District Council of keeping the conversation behind closed doors.

But the council says it is very early days.

Eskdale Park is north of Napier, where many from the region come to relax and unwind by enjoying a picnic or swimming in the river.

Esk River beside Eskdale Park.

Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

But the bike proposal has left some in the community fuming.

The new plan includes replacing the toilets and playgrounds, adding a bike track, bike hire facilities, a container cafe and new roads.

A swing bridge is also proposed so bikers can access mountain bike trails on the other side of the river on land owned by forestry company Pan Pac.

Trina Bergloff-Howes started a petition after she heard from council staff and the deputy mayor about the bike park at a tree planting event back in July.

Trina Bergloff-Howes started a petition against the development which has had about 900 signatories.

Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

She said she felt "completely and utterly shocked".

"How could they possibly feel this could be a good idea, [it's a] disastrously bad idea."

Hukarere Girls' College is beside the park.

Hostel manager Amelia Kaui wondered why there was no consultation earlier.

"Prior to the mountain bike proposal going forward, where was the consultation to actually come together and discuss with the community about 'hey, how we could work together for an actual proposal that not necessarily had to just be for a mountain bike track'," she said.

Hukarere Girls' College hostel manager Amelia Kaui.

Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Hastings District Council said it was looking at the future of the park in a master plan for the next 10 years.

Its open space and building services manager Colin Hosford said the council was approached by the Hawke's Bay Mountain Bike Club a few months ago.

Council staff noticed facilities in the park were out of date.

"You've got toilets that are sort of 60 plus years old, you've got play equipment that's 40 to 50 years old, you've got park furniture that is quite frankly is due for renewal and we put together a draft plan of some potential changes to the park as a starting point for consultation."

Hosford insisted it was only a proposal.

"Unfortunately a few members of the community have sort of run with the idea that it was a fait accompli and that's their words that they said on the day, this is a done deal. There's nothing further from the truth."

Hosford said if the council came to the community with nothing they would be accused of having no clear ideas.

Hawke's Bay Mountain Bike Club chairperson Scott Richardson said they needed a long term solution for mountain bikers as it was growing in popularity.

"We're looking to secure a mountain bike park that can be used for many years to come. With that we're going to need access to a block of land and the Eskdale Park is the bit of land we would ideally like to access to get into a forest area."

Richardson said they would only use a small part of the large park.

"Looking forward to having a real conversation rather than hearsay and making sure that everyone gets to have their say and we get it right for all concerned, (because) we want a win-win situation."

A community meeting is planned for 24 September.

People can provide feedback to the council online on its website.

A council ad outside the park for an upcoming community meeting

Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin