Ultimately there will be many aspects of the Kawatiri Coastal Trail which are considered special and unique. However possibly at the top of this list will be accessibility for all.
To date the Trail has seen 40,000 visitors, young and old, and with varying needs. And so we were delighted to hear of Eunice Scarlett’s recent exploration of the Pūwaha Section.
Having grown up at Granite Creek in Karamea, surrounded by the natural environment, Eunice was keen to take a look for herself. At 90 years young, and using a mobility scooter for the last few years, she was delighted to be able to explore the forest and wetlands.
Aided by her trusty companion, Richard Nichol, the pair explored King’s Creek, Martins Creek Bridge, the Boardwalk and along the estuary. Eunice particularly enjoyed the Clematis Flowers and Kiekie, or Gigi as she called it as a child when she ate it often.
We talked to Richard Nichol who is the Project Ecologist for the Trail. Richard has been involved since the early days, helping pull together information for the feasibility study, and involved at each step to manage environmental effects, and make it the best possible Trail.
Richard has also had input in the Interpretation Panels, and is a frequent user of the Trail – walking, biking and on his electric skateboard.
How do you know Eunice, and what was the reason behind your adventure together on the Trail?
I’ve known Eunice since moving to Westport in the early 2000s. She and her husband Erle (now passed) have been like Grandparents to my son, and Eunice is like family to me. Eunice is a very outgoing person, very into her gardening and an active member of the Westport gardening club. I knew she’d get a thrill from experiencing the Trail – and she did 🙂
What is it for you that makes the Kawatiri Coastal Trail special?
Seeing the surprise and delight on peoples faces (including Eunice’s) from the experience of letting the Trail take them to places on Westport’s doorstep many didn’t realise existed. Boardwalk access through otherwise pretty inaccessible wetland and dense rainforest opens these places up to visitors, while having minimal impact on them.
The diversity of scenery and ecosystems along the Trail is pretty exceptional. From riverside, farmland, seaside town/parkland, wetland, coastal and all the environments that they encompass. I’m also particularly into birds, so there’s an opportunity to see perhaps 40-50 bird species along the Trail, including a number of Threatened species.
Do you have a favourite Section of the Trail?
The boardwalk sections of Pūwaha and the sinuous limestone trail through the forest on the Omau Section are favourites. Both take the Trail user through magnificent forest areas that are so much more than they appear from a distance.
Photo credit: Creative Imagery by Anita Kay – Pūwaha Section
How does it feel to see the first few sections coming to fruition?
Incredibly satisfying. As is seeing the level of uptake from the local community. I live just across the road from the Trail in Carters Beach. Hearing the crunch of tyres on gravel is such a lovely sound. People are so proud of what’s been achieved, and along with the community-built Kawatiri River Trails, the Trail has been so important in many ways. It’s especially giving people a place to walk and talk with friends, get exercise or have quiet time out in our natural environment during the difficult times of the last couple of years.
What experience or memory of your involvement with the Trail to date will stay with you most?
I’ve really enjoyed seeing the level of care and personal investment the trail-building crew have put into the Trail. These guys are so incredibly good at doing what they do (special shout-out to Barry and Nigel). Without their level of skill and passion the Trail wouldn’t be half of what it is.
What aspect of the Trail’s completion excites you most?
I haven’t been so much focussed on completion, as on the journey of getting there, but that is changing now as the various parts start to be joined. I’m looking forward to having family over and sharing the experience of exploring the Trail with them. I also host cycle-tourists from around NZ and the world, and it will be great to easily direct them either north or south, knowing they’ll have such a ball on the Trail, whichever way they go.
Where are you and Eunice hoping to adventure next?
I was just talking about that with her. I think we’ll explore the Trail from Carters Beach back towards Westport, and take a bit more time to stop and take it all in. Then I think the Omau Section. We’ll check the brakes on the scooter first!
Photo credit: Jules Anderson Photography – Omau Section