Bushwalking is a popular and growing recreational activity in the Perth region. In some other states (Victoria and NSW) the tourism sector has in recent years experienced an astonishing growth in visitors going hiking. Easy access to a greater range of good bushwalking opportunities, along with suitable trails support and infrastructure, is needed to meet local and visitor demand and to provide walkers with rewarding experiences.
The majority of the existing ‘designated’ walk trails in the Darling Range near Perth are short walks at the least challenging end of the spectrum. The most noteable exceptions are the long-distance Bibbulmun Track and the 15km Eagle’s View Walk Trail in John Forrest NP. A local walker or visitor seeking options for a satisfying day’s bushwalk on an established circuit trail quickly becomes frustrated. Despite the continuing popularity of Eagle’s View Trail with bushwalkers as a day walk circuit, no other public circuit trails offering a comparable quality of bushwalking experience have been developed in the Perth Hills in the 20 years since that trail’s 1997 opening.
The opportunities and growth potential for quality bushwalking in the Perth region, especially for good new circuit day walks beyond the Bibbulmun Track are under-recognised. We have seen the burgeoning of mountain biking and trail biking as recreational activities, driven by enthusiastic community advocates and supported by Government agencies. Meanwhile local bushwalking has had a less public profile; Regulators, land managers and planners could be forgiven for not seeing the light under the bushwalkers’ bushel! The popularity of the many good circuit walks suggested on WalkGPS highlights the greater potential for local bushwalking.
Many day-walking opportunities in the Perth region, including a majority on WalkGPS currently involve some ‘off-track’ or cross-country hiking on unmarked and/or undeveloped trails. Such traditional bushwalking opportunities are minimum impact and require minimal resourcing to be sustainable, the key requirements simply being continued (or restored) access to walk areas and provision of suitable, discrete vehicle parking areas at trail-heads. Installation of basic surveillance equipment at parking areas would improve vehicle security.
A lifting of the current ban on backpacking with overnight stays in the outer catchments away from the Bibbulmun Track’s designated campsites would also restore the opportunity for bushwalkers to enjoy traditional camping out overnight or multi-day backpacking.
Vision and perspective?
Development of additional suitable bushwalking trails in our parks and state forests requires vision among politicians and planners, and champions within the community. The preparation of a WA statewide Bushwalking and Trail Running Strategy – scheduled for 2018 by DLGSC-Sport & Recreation and DBCA-Parks & Wildlife – should be a positive step. Achieving new trails will require a willingness on the part of regulators and land managers to consider access and other issues in the context of the greater community benefit, rather than from a narrower perspective of striving to reduce the managers’ risk toward an unachievable zero probability.