About 200 people attended the annual Friends of the Ōtaki River walkover on Wednesday, September 25.
The first part of the walkover (assisted by bus transport between locations) took participants along the northern stopbanks past the new Winstones Lake, to the entrance of Ashford Park and to the stunning Chrystalls Bend.
Along the way, speakers from Greater Wellington Regional Council, the expressway construction team, Winstones and the Friends (Fotor) outlined what had already been done along the riverbank, and what was still to be done.
What was clear is that the riverbank has been transformed in the 20 years Fotor has been doing its massive amount of voluntary work, alongside the regional council, Fletchers, Winstones and other corporates and individuals.
With the expressway construction in full swing, it’s not just the riverbank that’s receiving attention. At Ashford Park – between the river and the Ōtaki-Māori Racing Club – another lake has been formed after the extraction of gravel and other material. It’s already at its full depth of 8 metres and some rehabilitation planting has been done along its banks.
Although some years away from completion, like Winstones Lake it will offer plenty of opportunities for water sport, fishing and recreation.
Fotor’s work was no more evident than at Chrystalls Bend, where walkers were treated to morning tea amid the native trees and pristine walkways.
Even with the setting looking as stunning as it did, Fotor president Max Lutz still took the opportunity to get more trees in the ground. People who had helped Fotor over the years planted 10 new trees.
Max said many businesses and individuals had donated money to Fotor over the years and the group wanted to recognise them.
“We’ve decided to acknowledge those donations by setting aside planting areas where we will put in 1000 more trees and have names on signs,” he said.
The walkover then looked at how the shared pathway on the eastern side of the new Ōtaki River Bridge would link with the stopbanks and ultimately go through Ashford Park to Te Roto Road and the racecourse. A trip to the estuary completed the tour.
Meantime, and to celebrate the Friends’ 20th anniversary, a book, Friends of the Ōtaki River, The first 20 years (at right) was launched. With plenty of photos and illustrations, It outlines the history and achievement of the Friends of the Ōtaki River since its inauguration in 1999.