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An opportunity to get off the beaten track is on offer between Omakau and Ophir.

The beaten track Otago Central Rail Trail offers people a chance to explore small rural towns, but getting to Ophir had proved hazardous up until now because it was not directly on the rail trail.

During lockdown a wide verge was added on the Ida Valley-Omakau Rd, making the journey safer for people wanting to walk or cycle between the two towns.

The 1.6km track runs between the Omakau Bridge and Blacks Hotel in Ophir.

It provides a separate space for pedestrians and cyclists to commute safely between the two townships on a route where traffic flow, including heavy stock trucks and milk tankers, is increasing.

Former Central Otago district councillor Malcolm Topliss, of Ophir, said he was “chuffed” to see the work take shape in May, soon after lockdown.

The project, which was added to the 2015 Ophir Community Plan, was something Mr Topliss had pushed for when he was on the council.

“It took me a bit by surprise when it all happened,” he said.

“It started at a time when no-one was expecting it to happen.”

Mr Topliss said among those behind the project was Spike Broadbent, who came up with the idea, and Richard Querel, who did background research.

The facility was becoming popular among people wanting to go for a walk around the block, or between both towns.

“I am positive it will be a wonderful asset and of benefit to our two communities out here as well as to the many rail trail cyclists over the years to come.”