Otago Central Rail Trail facilitator Clare Toia-Bailey talks about the success of the trail in this pre-summer Q and A.
Q: The Otago Central Rail Trail was last month rated by New Zealanders as the most popular “Great Ride” in the country in an annual Department of Conservation survey and before that was voted New Zealand’s favourite place to cycle during Bike Wise Month. To what do you attribute the success of the trail?
The trail is successful because it is suitable for all ages, is off-road through one of the most picturesque regions in New Zealand and enjoys the support of individuals and businesses who together deliver a unique experience to our many thousands of visitors.
The trail accommodates people seeking a range of experiences – history, great wine and food, shopping and adventure. The trail has it all.
The success of the trail is due to the efforts of many and in no small part to the visionaries behind converting the former railway line into a cycle trail.
The initial scepticism by the community and farmers about a trail being developed has long gone and they are now the trail’s greatest supporters.
Q: How do you work alongside other stakeholders through your role, and what are the main aspects of your role?
My role is a part-time position which has evolved since starting three years ago.
I have mainly been involved in supporting a collaborative marketing approach of the trail. This involves working closely with the business community, regional tourism organisations, the Department of Conservation and community groups.
In essence, my job is about working with people, building on the success of the trail and helping continue working together to do it.
Q: The trail inspires lots of projects, and various initiatives have taken place on or in conjunction with the trail. What have some recent projects been?
Some recent projects include the interpretation project looking at a more co-ordinated and compelling way to bring the Otago Central Rail Trail history and stories to life. Another is the Interplanetary Cycleway project, designed to focus visitors on the amazing night sky landscape the area offers.
It will also provide an opportunity to engage visitors, students and communities through signage, explanatory science guides and school and public outreach sessions to learn more about the solar system.
Q: As other trails in the region also grow in prominence, what strategies are in place to ensure the profile of the Otago Central Rail Trail remains high?
The key is ensuring we remain unified in providing a world-class trail and that we keep our unique selling points to the fore.
We continue to collaborate with the various groups involved in the rail trail to implement and bring fresh ideas.
A key group to help with this is the marketing group that has representation from all the stakeholders.
We are also willing to work with other trails and regions to encourage more people to cycle and enjoy New Zealand!
Q: Do you spend much time on the trail or cycling elsewhere yourself? What are your interests and hobbies outside of your job?
I don’t spend as much time on the trail as I would like.
When I do get out there I am always reminded how lucky we are to have it in our backyard.
I am a social rider and frequently use the Clyde to Alexandra section of the trail.
I am also a mother of three young and busy children, so there’s no time for hobbies – just a big to-do list!
We have a 12-acre lifestyle block in Earnscleugh that we need to develop, and I have recently started up a company called “image central”.
It’s a photography and storytelling business to encourage participation in sport and recreation in our region.