The Redwood Treewalk is the vision of German tourist and now Rotorua local resident, Alex Schmid, who visited Rotorua’s internationally renowned Redwood Forest in 2009. Inspired by the spiritual connection he had with the forest, he wanted to share this experience with others, but from a completely unique perspective.
A mechanical engineer by trade, Mr Schmid who had been involved in developing Treewalk’s in Germany, wanted to construct an experience with an elevated bird’s eye perspective. He wanted visitors to be able to see the 115-year-old redwood giants up close and to view the beautiful surrounds of the forest from a spatial perspective.
After convincing his wife to move from Germany, Mr Schmid spent the next six years bringing his dream to reality. Having successfully secured support from Redwood Forest guardians, Rotorua Lakes Council, forest owners and local iwi, he was then able to secure additional funding from private shareholders to construct the Treewalk.
Led by Mr Schmid, construction on the Treewalk started on 10 November 2015. The 553-metre-long walkway is located 12-metres above the forest floor and secured using a New Zealand-first ecologically friendly method. This was the main requirement from the Forest Guardians to ensure the natural environment of the forest and the native giants were protected from harm.
The walkway was constructed to traverse between 22 majestic 115-year old Redwood trees and existing plants, so they remain untouched in their natural state. The Redwood Forest consists of both Californian Coastal Redwoods and Douglas Fir.
The tree platforms and bridges are suspended using a technologically designed sling suspended from the redwood trees. The sling can hold up to five tonnes in weight and allows these 115-year-old giants to grow at their natural rate and remain undamaged. Much of the Treewalk construction was carried out by the same team that constructed similar tree walks with Mr Schmid in Germany. Most of the construction took place on the ground, with the platforms and bridges lifted and fixed into place.
Officially opened on 19 December 2015 by local iwi elders, the Treewalk continues to attract visitors to the Redwood Forest who want to experience the essence of Mr Schmid’s vision and dream – to spiritually connect with the forest and the 115-year-old giants in their natural surroundings.
The 30-minute walk provides a journey behind the history of the 115-year-old Redwood Forest, the local people (iwi) and the land (whenua) allowing visitors time to appreciate the peaceful and breath-taking surroundings that re-energise and inspire the body and soul.
“This is a one of a kind eco-tourism walk that provides a unique experience for visitors to Rotorua. It offers an accessible, low-level adrenaline experience for all ages that captures the beauty and spirit of this famous forest,” says Mr Schmid.
In addition to the day-time treewalk, on 22 December 2016 Redwoods Nightlights opened at the treewalk. This is a new and unique Kiwi design-led tourism experience found nowhere else in the world and encompasses 30 lanterns designed by the world-acclaimed designer and sustainability champion, David Trubridge. In addition to the Trubridge lighting, over forty infinite colour spots and feature lights illuminate the 115-year-old redwood trees, forest ferns and pungas. The lanterns are up to 2.5 meters tall and were made at the David Trubridge workshop in Hastings and assembled by a team in the forest by hand, taking care not to damage the forest environment.
The new night-time experience offers visitors and locals the opportunity to explore Rotorua’s majestic Redwood forest under the shroud of darkness; illuminated by Trubridges’ bespoke creations to create an immersive and captivating environment.