Plan to turn rail trail into star performer

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By Otago Central Rail Trust chairwoman Kate Wilson

Cycling on the Otago Central Rail Trail has been a popular pastime for over 20 years, and a novel idea by local retired farmer Ian Begg is challenging trail users to consider their 152km ride differently.
‘ The interplanetary cycleway is just one of the themes the trust and Department of
Conservation are considering in planning a broad interpretation strategy to enhance users’ experience of the trail and the wider
environment. ‘
Ian is a keen amateur astronomer, a proud tradition in his family.
He had been working to persuade the trust to consider a 1:100 million scale model of the solar system along the trail for a while and the idea has now gained traction, with the concept being piloted with the Otago Museum and with funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Unlocking Curious Minds fund.
The concept models will be designed in collaboration with school children along the trail over the next few months.
There will also be opportunities for local communities to participate in thinking how the concept could work growing understanding of the strong night sky opportunities along the trail, with the observatory in Clyde, the dark sky project in Naseby and the planetarium in Dunedin.
But there is more to it than just planets. Distance, speed and perspective can all be interpreted in ways to challenge riders to think quite differently about their ride.
Will a headwind be more acceptable if it is considered a magnet force? Will a hill ridden at light year speed add interest? These ideas will also be explored over the next few months and then tested on rail trail users over the spring months.
The interplanetary cycleway is just one of the themes the trust and Department of Conservation are considering in planning a broad interpretation strategy to enhance users’ experience of the trail and the wider environment.
The trust is hopeful that communities will feed into both the interplanetary cycleway project and the interpretation work, and will be holding community consultation during August and September.
If you want more information please contact the trust via Clare Toia-Bailey, the trust facilitator, by emailing facilitator@otagocentralrail trail.co.nz.
The trust is thrilled and very grateful for all the support it has received over the last few months for the purchase of the Hyde Railway Station.
It has now been purchased and our patron, John Gibson, did the honours unlocking the door for us.
We are looking into ways to open the station securely but with exhibitions in it, so that trail visitors can enjoy a very special site.
There are a number of wagons at the site and these will slowly also be upgraded and interpreted.
Many of the local farmers will remember loading stock on to the rail wagons and we welcome photos or stories of stock wagons.
We would welcome contact to see if we can incorporate them into stories.
Again, please contact Clare at facilitator@otagocentral railtrail.co.nz