Following outcry from neighbours, the Whakatane Mountain Bike Club has withdrawn its request to create mountain bike tracks on the Waiewe Reserve.
This is despite a consultant recommending to Whakatane District Council that one of the proposed tracks be constructed.
Bike tracks in the reserve have been a contentious subject after a group of enthusiastic teenagers created their own jumps and resorted to flinging mud at annoyed neighbours in what became a heated conflict.
Neighbours confiscated the group’s tools and flattened their jumps as they believed the group were destroying the work done by the local care group.
The Whakatane MTB Club found itself at the centre of this storm as they fundraised to create more sophisticated, family-friendly, tracks in the reserve.
The area the teenagers dug up was not one of the trails proposed by the club, however, it seems the conflict has made neighbours resolutely opposed to any type of bike track through the reserve.
Club spokesman Richard Hamer said the club had a meeting and members felt it was better to withdraw their request to the council as the conflict had become too distracting from the true purpose.
“What happened up there, threw all the toys out the cot. And, while we got huge support, we also got huge opposition,” he said.
“It created some real divide and that wasn’t our intention at all.”
Mr Hamer said the club had made plans, presented them to the council and had wanted to take them to the community for discussion.
“My personal hope was that we would get people in the community on site to see what we were proposing and that never happened,” he said.
“We got some community board members up there and some councillors and they got a better idea of what we were proposing, and they saw it wouldn’t be as negative as some people were saying.
“It was never meant to be a park but rather some family-friendly trails for beginner mountain biking.”
The club had hoped the formation of official tracks would ease the conflict between neighbours and teenagers and is now concerned this could continue as the youths still have nowhere to ride.
Although Mr Hamer feels it is a “missed opportunity” it may not be all bad news as a private landowner in the area has indicated to the club, they may allow tracks to be built on their land instead.
Mr Hamer said the thousands donated to the now dismissed Waiewe tracks could be used to progress this instead, if donators were happy with the option.
“There is still a huge will and desire and people seem happy to have their money used to provide trails for young people,” he said.
“We still have a large number of young people and families who would like to see something happen.”
The matter of mountain bike tracks was discussed in council’s last projects and services committee and while the club may have given up, the council potentially has not.
The council engaged APR Consultants to conduct a feasibility study on potential locations for mountain bike trails and it recommended that at least one of the proposed tracks on the western side of the reserve be progressed.
The consultants and council staff met with the Waiewe Street Care Group in early June to assure them there would be full community engagement before any works would be undertaken.
APR Consultants also recommended to the council that it proceed with the development of a network of trails in the Mokorua Scenic Reserve and the ongoing extension of mountain bike trails in areas close to Whakatane and Ohope.
The council will work with key stakeholders to achieve this and is going to create a cycling steering group.
Community service general manager Mike Naude said the terms of reference for the steering group were yet to be determined.
“Once established, the steering group will further investigate the options presented through the APR report,” he said.