A viable alternative to vehicle use in the Upper Clutha is one step closer following the opening of another link in the cycling network last week.

Upper Clutha Tracks Trust chairman John Hare said the new track from the Albert Town bridge to the Hawea River swing bridge was part of the trust’s strategy and vision to complete a track network connecting all Upper Clutha communities for recreation and commuting.

He said a lot of people commuted by cycling from Hawea and Hawea Flat and he expected the new purpose built track to be “very heavily used”, particularly in the summer.

“Coming off the Albert Town bridge it has not been entirely clear where to go on the bike and so some people have gone on this dirt road (to the Hawea River) and it gets dusty and corrugated.

“This purpose-built track will keep the cyclists off the road,” he said.

The 1.4km extension from the Albert Town bridge and Upper Clutha river track to the Hawea River and swing bridge cycle track was a collaboration between the Upper Clutha Tracks Trust, the Queenstown Lakes District Council reserves team and the Lake Hawea camp ground operator and cost $70,000.

Queenstown Lakes District (Wanaka ward) Councillor and trust member Quentin Smith said the new track had been a “real gap” in the middle of the network.

“Albert Town was a connecting point between the Deans Bank, the Clutha River tracks, the Hawea River track and the Newcastle track and [this section] was really the weak link in the middle but this really draws all those pieces together,” he said.

Cr Smith said the trust’s next project was redesigning the Pawson’s Crossing bridge over the Cardrona River, to make it more accessible for bikes and wheelchairs.

In the meantime, NZTA was improving the trail between Alison Ave and the Albert Town bridge.

Coming soon . . . NZTA Central Otago maintenance contract manager Mark Stewart points to where the agency is improving the track between Alison Avenue and the Albert Town bridge and across Albert Town bridge.

NZTA Central Otago maintenance contract manager Mark Stewart said part of the project involved crossing over the Albert Town bridge and providing a link to the new Upper Clutha Tracks Trust track.

It was due to be finished in the next few months, he said.

The new Albert Town bridge to Hawea River swing bridge track was welcomed by Active Transport Wanaka spokesman Simon Telfer.

“It is particularly pleasing to see how these tracks are linking in to the urban cycle network, making bike commuting from outside Wanaka accessible for even more people.

“It is exciting to see the rich tapestry of cycling options continuing to evolve throughout Wanaka,” Mr Telfer said.