It's been five years in the making and come Thursday, the Te Awa Great River Ride Perry Bridge will open to the public.

The bridge features the colours blue as a representing Waikato River and green to tie in with the natural surroundings.


The bridge located south of Ngāruawāhia is part of the Te Awa Great River Ride and will allow pedestrians to access a 70 kilometre cycleway which stretches alongside the river all the way to Horahora.


Its name comes from the Brian Perry Charitable Trust which contributed $500,000 towards it.


The 130m long and 3m wide bridge features a flax weaving inspired design with the colour blue to signify the Waikato River and green to link in with its natural surroundings. 


General manager of the trust, Jennifer Palmer, said the bridge was about bringing the community together through its design and contribution from residents.


"We try to get the local community to see it as their bridge," she said. 


Students from Horotiu School and Ngāruawāhia High School came up with designs which have been turned into mosaics by Waikato glass artist Tracy Osborne.


Those mosaics were set to be installed in the next few weeks, Palmer said.


Palmer is hoping those who took part in the mosaic design process will be some of the first to walk across the bridge after the ribbon-cutting on Thursday.


Signs were also set to be installed to tell the stories of historical and cultural significance as well as the bridge-building process, she said

The event will also be about celebrating the opening of the 8km Ngāruawāhia to Horotiu section.


While this section and the bridge going were to be assets for locals and avid cyclists, Palmer predicted a growth in tourism for the area with the Hākarimata track and now the bridge.


"Hopefully this is a catalyst for more tourism."


And it appears people are starting to realise that with newly created businesses. 


"There's quite a few bike operations starting to sprout up."


Palmer encouraged people to tap into that market as well. 


Kicking off Thursday's event will be a bike procession from The Point led by Te Awa Charitable Trust trustee Sarah Ulmer at 3:30pm.


Festivities will be held at the Ngāruawāhia Golf Club with food, spot prizes and bike demonstration before the ribbon-cutting at the bridge.


The five winners of the design a helmet competition will also be given their prize of a bike and a helmet with their design on it.


The cost for the cycleway stretch was about $4.7m – of which about $2.7m was funded by  NZTA. 


The rest had been made up from contributions by the Waikato District Council, the NZ Community Trust, Lion Foundation, Trust Waikato, WEL Energy Trust, Perry Group and Brian Perry Trust, Trillian Trust and Grassroots Trust. 


 - Stuff

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