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Walking Access Commission helps Charleston step again
A $17,000 grant from the Walking Access Commission is helping to return Charleston to prominence, perhaps for the first time since 1867 when it nearly became New Zealand’s capital.
The Commission’s grant is supporting the Charleston-Westport Coastal Trail Trust to build the 55-kilometre long walking and cycling Kawatiri Coastal Trail between the former gold-mining hub and Westport.
The trail will pass near sites containing some of New Zealand’s oldest historical artefacts, dating back to 1300. It will follow parts of the ancient Māori Pounamu Trail along the West Coast and also the 1860’s gold rush route from Westport to Charleston.
The Trust will use the funding to help secure legal access across parts of the land the trail crosses. Commission staff are also providing expertise and knowledge to gain and manage public access to private land.
Steve White, from the Charleston-Westport Coastal Trail Trust, says their recently completed feasibility study shows the trail will attract over 8000 cyclists to the region and up to 80,000 walking journeys each year.
"Local people who have lost their mining jobs can start their own small businesses supporting the trail," says Steve White. The track will help sustain 100 jobs and bring more than $5 million visitor spending per year to the region.
"We won’t rely on DOC or Council to manage the trail long-term. We will mentor business start-ups, so we have a sustainable commission-based model for maintaining the trail."
The Kawatiri Coastal Trail plans to open in late 2020. When complete, it will include solar-powered audio-visual boards and interpretation stations that showcase the trail’s amazing heritage, geology, flora and fauna. There will be limited wheelchair access to parts of the trail, Wi-Fi connections and an interpretive app for cyclists and walkers.