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Editor’s Note: a decision on opening Sharlands is due to be taken at 11am tomorrow, please check our.nelson.govt.nz for the latest information.
Many of Nelson and Tasman’s mountain biking trails will reopen on Thursday 2 September, as the region moves from Alert Level 4 into Alert Level 3 and the rules around recreation activities ease slightly.
Contractors will be out checking trails on Wednesday 1 September, which means all trails will be closed on that day so we can ensure trails are safe and contractors can maintain two-metre physical distancing.
While the alert level change does not signal a return to normal activities just yet, experienced riders will be able to utilise open trails for exercise and recreation, if they can do so safely within the limits of the Alert Level 3 guidelines.
There are several things for mountain bikers to consider before going for a ride at Alert Level 3: staying safe, regraded trails, and trail closures due to forestry harvesting.
Riders must stick to the trails closest to their home, ride cautiously and maintain social distancing of two meters from anyone outside of their bubble. High risk and remote trails should be avoided during Level 3 and riders should stick to easy trails that are well within their capabilities. People should not use trails that can only be reached by driving.
Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said this coming Wednesday’s change to Alert Level 3 was an opportunity for Nelson residents to go for a ride while respecting the Level 3 restrictions.
“It’s great that we can exercise a bit more freely now, but it’s so important to keep the needs of other people in mind. Ride within your limits and avoid taking risks that might result in needing to be rescued.
“This weekend, a mountain biker crashed in Queenstown and several police and ambulance staff were involved in the two-hour rescue. Our emergency services are already stretched due to the lockdown, and if something similar happened here it would take up the time of emergency staff that are potentially needed elsewhere.”
Tasman District Council Mayor Tim King also stressed a safety-first approach.
“We cannot reiterate enough that your recreation should not pose a risk to anybody else. Stay within your limits, if possible scale it back for the short term. Emergency services do not want to use their resources to manage the consequences should something go wrong, particularly in more remote areas.”
The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Baker said riders should take a cautious approach.
“Try to avoid injuries that put pressure on the health system – this means even experienced riders should use known tracks, within their ability level. Stick to nearby trails close to your home. If you require rescuing from a remote location, you put the people who come to your aid at risk.”
“Mountain bikers should also not gather in groups outside of their bubble, to limit the risk to others, and mask wearing is advised.”
Be aware of forestry harvesting
While most trails in Nelson re-open at Alert Level 3, some will remain closed as Nelson City Council resumes forestry harvesting operations halted by Alert Level 4 restrictions.
Phase 3 of operations will see the closure of trails in the Codgers recreation area, and down into the Maitai Valley, this work is expected to be completed within 4 to 6 weeks.
Work will also resume in the Tantragee area (above Brook Street). This means the Coppermine Trail will be closed between the Tantragee Saddle/Fringed Hill Road access (Kissing Gate) and Four Corners. This closure will be for about one week, until the harvest site has been cleared. Alternative access will be via Brook Street, up the 4WD track (adjacent to the Sanctuary Fence) to Four Corners.”
If riders are unsure whether a trail is open, they are encouraged to check before leaving home. A full list of trail closures due to forestry, including maps and information can be found at Shape Nelson: https://shape.nelson.govt.nz/harvesting-our-forests
Many trails now have different grades
One of the first things mountain bikers may notice when they get back out on trails in Nelson, is that many trails now have a different difficulty grade.
Following recent audits of Nelson’s trail networks conducted by Envisage NZ and Elevate Trail Building, a working group comprised of Nelson City Council, Ngāti Koata, the Nelson Mountain Bike Club and industry representatives have reached a consensus on revised grades.
After examining the trails against a number of factors, trails were graded using a 1 to 6 scale established in the New Zealand Cycle Trail Design Guide. This document standardises certain trail features and seeks to accommodate a range of riding abilities, with ‘Grade 1’ being the easiest grade and ‘Grade 6’ being the most technically demanding.
Most of the trails in the Nelson region have been regraded upwards, reflecting the high number of advanced trails in the region. Importantly, the trail grading is now in line with the rest of the country which will offer consistency and confidence for riders of all abilities.
NMTBC Chair Mel Schroder said the changes to trail grades were positive.
“NMTBC is pleased to be working with Ngāti Koata and Nelson City Council to implement these grade changes and bring trail grading in alignment with national trail grading. The grade changes highlight the fact that Nelson is a steep area in which to build trails and while we are working on more low-grade trails, they are expensive to build in steep terrain. We look forward to working with our partners to come up with solutions for our members and visitors.”
When we get to Alert Level 3, trail signage will be updated to reflect the revised grading. Take a look at the handy list below to see which trails have changed grade before going out for a ride:
With changes to both Alert Levels and trail grades, people are reminded to do their bit to keep each other safe and take a cautious approach when out enjoying the trails.