The track spat that has pitted walkers and cyclists against horse riders showed no signs of resolution after a meeting at Ashford Park.
The meeting on February 24 was called to canvass the views of both sides of the argument, allowing an exchange of ideas and the possibility of a solution.
However, with some raised voices and much shaking of heads, compromise appeared unlikely. The evening meeting at the Te Roto Road end of the track next to the racecourse was led by Winstone Aggregates operations manager Josua Grobler and attended by Ashford Park Community Liaison Group chair Di Buchan and Ōtaki Community Board chair Chris Papps.
The spat between the two groups began just before Christmas when Winstone opened a new track so horse riders could also have access to Ōtaki River. However, following liaison group recommendations, it diverted walkers and cyclists from a parallel existing track they had been using for four years, to the new track and allowed horse riders to use the old track.
The diversion incensed the walkers and cyclists because the new track is narrower, has rough terrain and lacks shade.
Di Buchan says her group made the recommendation because it had advice that horses would be “spooked” by other horses in an adjoining paddock. That concern appears to have been allayed after a suggestion at the February meeting at Ashford Park that a trial run of horses on the track be videoed to see their reaction.
It’s understood that video shows no sign of horses being distressed – either on the track or in the paddock.
That might lead to the solution being a switch back for walkers and cyclists to their old track.
It’s a solution that’s unlikely to please horse riders, whose group fought hard to gain access.
The liaison group is likely to make a new recommendation to Winstone – which uses the land for quarrying – at an April 1 meeting.
In a statement to Ōtaki Today, Winstone said that in 2015 it constructed the 5-metre-wide private walkway for pedestrian and cycle access as part of its resource consent for using Ashford Park. Since then, an increasing number of horse riders also indicated they would like access to the walkway.
“We want to work constructively with our communities and stakeholders,” the statement said. “While our resource consent required a narrower 3m walkway only, even at 5m wide, we felt the current walkway, which is fenced on both sides, could not safely accommodate walkers, dogs, cyclists and horse riders. To ensure everyone’s safety and accommodate more community users, we constructed a further 3m-wide corridor adjacent to the original one. The design and proposed use of the new 3m corridor was considered and agreed to by the Ashford Park Community Liaison Group.
“We are currently working through community feedback on the designation of the walkways with Kapiti Coast District Council.”