Contrary to rumours, the diggers are not rolling into Eskdale Park any time soon … neither are the mountain bikers.
As far as formal process is concerned, the concept of a mountain bike hub, floated by Hawke’s Bay Mountain Bike Club (HBMBC) in 2018, remains just that.
The park’s beloved greenspace, playgrounds, even its ageing toilet blocks will remain untouched, while Hastings District Council embarks on a year-long Community Consultation process.
That process is set to begin on March 5, and includes independent data gathering, and three separate phases of public engagement.
Additional steps have been added to ensure transparency and allow everyone to be heard loud and clear, HDC Open Spaces Manager Rachel Stuart said.
“There is a high level of public interest in Eskdale Park, and a certain amount of distrust in Council, so we really want to get it right.
“Normally, we could go out with concepts for the park, for a new playground, and ask people what they think; we have learned what the community actually wants is for us to go out with a blank piece of paper and say – what are your views?”
Once data gathering is complete, a comprehensive Draft Reserve Management Plan will be released in December 2021, after which time people have 60 working days to enter their submissions.
“What we are hoping in the early stages is to get all parties talking – the mountain bikers will say what they want for the park, the recreational users will have their say – it’s about getting everyone involved.”
The need for clarification comes after rumours continue to circulate that Eskdale Park’s transformation to a mountain bike hub is a “done deal”.
An early concept from the Mountain Bike Club to Council included plans to replace the toilets and playgrounds, add a bike track, bike hire facilities, a container café, car parking and new roads.
They also suggested a swing bridge so bikers could access mountain bike trails on the other side of the river on land owned by forestry company Pan Pac.
However, the proposal was never officially submitted, and under Council legislation could never be considered, without a formal process including public consultation.
Hawke’s Bay Mountain Bike Club chairperson Scott Richardson said their intention was never to upset park users, but encourage more people to get involved in the sport.
“It’s about engagement in mountain biking, it’s about promoting well-being for locals and tourists, for families and people wanting to give it a go,” he said.
“There’s a lot of opposition to our concept, but it was never going to go ahead 100% – it was always a matter of consultation, a lot of that stuff isn’t necessarily what we need, it’s a ‘nice to have’ like the café and the bike hire.”
With more than 4,000 members, the club is growing in popularity and offers potential for Hawke’s Bay to tap into a rising trend in bike tourism.
“Out of towners come here on a weekly basis, we are a significant sports club, that’s the reality of what we provide, along with some fantastic trail networks.”
Eskdale Park’s central position to the mountain bike trails on Pan Pac land make it an “ideal” place for bikers to leave their cars and enter the site.
“We don’t want to change the park greatly, we just want a place to park and a place to cross over; it’s now a council-led process so we will keep plugging away to help try and promote a positive win-win approach,” Mr Richardson said.
A Friends of Eskdale Park spokesperson said the space held special significance for many, and they wanted to preserve the serene environment for everyone to enjoy.
Something they didn’t see happening if mountain bikers were allowed to create an access route through the middle of it.
“We have got nothing against the mountain bikers, but we want to keep the park as an asset for all of Hawke’s Bay. People want to have open green spaces, they don’t want it turned into a concrete car park or a bike hub.
“One of the issues is a real lack of information and communication in the public arena. That’s why it’s really important for people to know they can still have a say, and haven’t just been shut out.
“By asking people what improvements they would like, ignoring the bike park, Council will get a better idea of the big picture.”
HDC aims to create an all-inclusive feedback forum, including printed information for older community members or those who do not have online access.
They will also engage Eskdale School students in the process, by inviting children to come up with their own idea of how the park might look in future.
Friends of Eskdale Park are dedicated to helping everyone understand the process, and will continue to post links to key information on their website: www.eskdalepark.co.nz
Photos: Simon Cartwright Photography