Cam Bissett, of D&E Track and Trail, undertakes a prescriptive track assessment on the proposed new route to Sharplin Falls. PHOTO SUPPLIED

A 4WD safari into the Mid Canterbury high country on Valentine’s Day will generate some love for the Mt Somers Walkway Society.

The fundraising safari on February 14 will support the work of the walkway society, which is currently working on a new track to Sharplin Falls. The old track has been closed since February 2015 because of rockfall danger.

The safari next month will run from Lake Heron to the south branch of the Ashburton River and back, offering views of the spectacular countryside.

Vehicles meet at Mt Somers first.

It is being co-ordinated by the Ashburton 4WD Club and open to low-ratio vehicles with high clearance only, because of the nature of the terrain to be crossed.

Entry is $80 per vehicle.

A long convoy of vehicles is expected, with stopping points scheduled along the route for photos.

Society chairman Charles Ross said the Sharplin Falls track working group has been progressing plans for the new track over the past month, including complex environmental requirements necessary for the assessment of environmental effects and the budgetary aspects of the project.

The working group was currently working on the design of the two bridges needed to traverse Bowyers Stream to get to the falls.

Working group member Sam Polson of EDC Engineers, Christchurch, has been asked to review the initial bridge design. It is likely the bridges will be 38.8 metres long and made of galvanised angle iron.

Mr Ross said it was necessary to finalise this aspect of the track for the assessment of environmental effects to be completed.

The report will then be used to gain iwi support, resource consent and then Department of Conservation approval.

The environmental assessment is being funded by a grant from the Ian Glassey Fund, held by the Advance Ashburton Community Foundation, and is being undertaken by environmental scientist Fred Overmars.

The working group includes walkway society members Alan Totty, Robert Schikker, Barry Austin and Charles Ross and well-known local Jack Allan, who is undertaking the fundraising role.

Providing excellent and active support to the working group are the preferred contractors for the project including Shane Reynolds, contracting manager, Fulton Hogan, Ashburton (bridge installation); Cam Bissett of D&E Track & Trail (track building); and Colin Hunt of ERL Engineering, Ashburton (bridge manufacturer).

Mr Ross said the preferred contractors were all most experienced in their respective fields and the working group remained enthusiastic about returning a track to the falls.

Vehicles wanting to go on the February 14 safari will meet at Mt Somers Domain between 8am and 9am to register first, with the convoy moving off to Lake Heron after 9am.

People are advised to bring lunch, drinks and sunscreen.


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