The big pines that were brought down by strong winds in August, temporarily closing two tracks, served as timely reminders of the old proverb, "a stitch in time saves nine".
One tree came down in the head of a gully and, while passable after a bit of pruning, completely demolished a nicely cambered boardwalk built by boys from Motueka High School.
Another fell across a track and it took us four days to clear the trunk and create a bypass of the rootball. The time and expense of this operation was a good indicator to us of the value of a little preventative action!
Enter Bob Roborgh & Matiu Noakes of Tree Care. They've been working their way along the main Park circuit felling those pines that could potentially close tracks in the event of a big blow. This includes 'leaners' and many that are immediately trackside, capable of taking the entire width of track with them if they go.
One class of particularly dangerous pines are those mighty monsters scattered throughout the Reserve with tentacle-like branches extending several metres out from the trunk. While these trees may look majestic, a more discerning look often reveals huge branches that have snapped off and remain hanging on lower ones. These 'hangers' are capable of dropping at any time and you wouldn't want to be riding underneath when it happens.
The only solution is to fell the tree. The advantage of using skilled arborists is that they can dictate the direction of the fall. A good scarf cut and, if necessary, the placement of a couple of wedges, and BOOM - down she goes just where you want it. The tree that Bob has scarfed here made a particularly large BOOM as it largely disappeared into the marsh grasses of Swamp Monster.
There are a few good reasons behind the naming of this track and the tendril-like branches that now rise out of the swamp only add to the mystique.
It's always a shame to see a mighty tree brought to ground but the increased exposure to sunlight is only going to encourage the regeneration of the indigenous species underneath. So while it may appear as though there is a bit of tree carnage at the moment, give it a year and the fallen trunks will be submerged by flourishing ferns and emergent kanuka, mahoe, beech & pungas. Hopefully even the few rimu dotted around the Reserve will get a fair crack!
There are, however, a lot of pines and short of logging the entire 185ha. forest, we can never predict what is going to come down next. Each year we'll deal to those we consider high-risk - to riders & track - as part of our job of managing the Park.
That said, it's still important for everyone to be aware of the dangers of entering the forest during strong winds. The saturated soils this winter upped the risk factor significantly and, on the whole, we consider we got away lightly.
But having spent a few days in the Park with Bob & Matiu, watching them glance anxiously upwards whenever the wind started rocking the treetops, I for one will be a bit more careful about when I choose to go for a ride.