On the ride in my previous post, I was completely taken by surprise! Where I expected to see a narrow dirt path in the forest that I knew so well, with its potholes, bumpy surface and all the overhanging branches, I found a wide and smooth concrete path that had ‘suddenly’ replaced that familiar old path.
I had filmed this path several times before. Long ago, in 2009, I commented that this old, neglected path desperately needed some TLC, in the so-called ‘annotations’ that YouTube later deleted. And I wasn’t the only one who thought this path was not up to modern design standards. Geert Verhoeven, a 78-year-old man who lives right next to the path, told the newspaper what he sometimes overheard users say. “This is no way to cycle. All these potholes and bumps. Let’s take the detour next time. And then” he said, “they mean the road on Guldenberg, which I think is unsafe.”
While it may have “only” been a path for recreational rides, it is an important route to the main area of National Park Loonse en Drunense Duinen meaning Dunes of Loon and Drunen, (other parts of which are right beside the path). No wonder the residents and the Cyclists’ Union are pleased with the upgraded cycle route, that was subsided by the province. “At last, after nearly 45 years”, said a spokesperson for the local branch of the Cyclists’ Union. “It had been the weakest link in the cycling network of the nature reserve for years.” He praised the municipality for choosing a project leader who loves to cycle himself, because “he knows what it is all about.” The Cyclists’ Union agrees that the path is now better than the paths it connects to on either end. “But you have to start somewhere [when you upgrade an entire route] and then it is smart to pick the worst part to begin with.”
It was one of the last projects the municipality of Haaren finished. The path was opened in August 2020 and the municipality ceased to exist on 31 December that same year. The town of Helvoirt (where the path runs) now belongs to Vught. The former municipality wanted an environmentally sustainable cycle path so close to the nature reserve. Another requirement in the tender was resource-efficiency. That means the new path was not only built with recycled concrete, but the old foundation was also reused. Strukton Civiel, the contractor, also only used an electric shovel for the construction. Finally, not a single tree had to be cut. Construction took place from 15 June to 26 August 2020. I had used the path on 14 April that year as shown in a post in May, not knowing that this reconstruction was about to take place.
The upgraded path is 2,800 metres long and 3.5 metres wide. A dirt path is still alongside of it, so that horse riding can still take place on this route. The builder boasts that maintenance is not needed for at least 40 to 50 years. But I did notice that sand gets blown onto the path. On top of that, horse manure, leaves and branches do make it necessary to sweep the path every now and then. But that is a different kind of maintenance to the path than the builder meant.
With this upgraded path it is finally a pleasure to cycle through the forest!