Thank you ……. Good morning everyone. My name is Brett Simes. I’m from the Department for Environment and Natural Resources, so effectively trails in the protected area network. Specifically I work in our Policy area focussed on Protected Area Management and with a particular focus on Commercial Development and Partnerships. After that great from introduction Daffyd I am really looking forward to this conference, the theme, the Business of Trails, to me has so much appeal and really starts to hone in on the whole package we need to begin thinking about beyond simply the traditional trail itself. In my wrap up of trails in South Australia I’ve attempted to link the various sub-themes being discussed throughout the next few days. I guess this will be be a little biased towards National Parks but I will also discuss what is going on with a couple of other key state agencies responsible for trails in SA, the Office of recreation and Sport and Forestry SA.
So what's been happening of late? A couple of significant changes to key state agencies. What was known as the Dept of Environment & Heritage has become Department for Environment & Natural Resources having amalgamated with Natural Resource Management. The aim of this is to provides a one stop shop for a landscape scale approach to managing environment and natural resources in South Australia. Also the Office of Sport & Recreation now sits under the Department for Planning and Local Government.
So what do these changes mean for trails? For DENR one of the big opportunities come from a significant increase in access to and coordination of volunteer groups. From working with a current 110 Friends of Park groups, there will be access to over 600 other groups involved with volunteer environmental work. We are still working through the nuts and bolts of how all of this will work so te real opportunities and detail are yet to be realised. For Rec & Sport the move provides the opportunity for the recognition of trails much earlier in the planning process for things such as new developments. This will be important in delivering the states 30 year plan. I’ll talk more about this a little later. Now I’ll go through some of the work and initiatives that have been happening around South Australia during the past few years.
Within the protected area network we have been busy with trail upgrades and repairs following floods and fires, although thankfully these have not been anywhere near as significant as some of the other states. A lot of effort has also been going into strategic planning as part of setting up our trail network for the future. And as you can see from the slide, a few other things too which I’ll run through.
Linking with Nature was released in late 2008 with outlined the strategy for trails across South Australia’s protected area network. There are multiple objectives of this strategy. We want to encourage more people to use trails and for them to become more engaged in conservation, we want to minimise and manage the potential impacts of trails and their use; design and construct more sustainable trails and monitor their use; create effective partnerships and to develop expertise in managing trails and imparting this knowledge to others. Engaging with the community as part of the future planning was a key outcome of the strategy and a focus on this has resulted in 10 parks having had trail plans commenced. Some are finished with trail work having started to bring those to reality, but more work is still required to finalise others, it is an ongoing process, as always reliant on resourcing.
In response to growing demand for cycling in park a new policy was created to determine where cycling may be possible and under what circumstances. Part of this was also the creation of a formal procedure to assist the decision process and a set of standards to ensure trails are built to not only meet Australian Standards but also remain sustainable.
Linking Adelaide With Nature is a strategy to increase trail linkages across the Adelaide Hills. One of the key aspects is to make the trail network more appealing and meet the expectation of a broader range of trail users, in particular the growth in mountain biking and also horse riders. Other goals of the strategy are for a sustainable trail network and an increased appreciation, understanding and stewardship for parks. The process used in preparing this strategy has been interesting one and has been in response to initial divergent views of stakeholders. Views which are possibly not uncommon when it comes to non-traditional use of trails and the balancing of conservation and recreation. Stakeholders representing the various user groups together with conservation groups were brought together to form an advisory group. We then engaged the Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Assessment through Melbourne University to facilitate a structured decision making workshop. This process helped to identify conditions that make strategies and actions acceptable to all parties and will allow us to move ahead in a structured manner
Another way to approach suitable management of cycling is hands on. We are currently undergoing a trial with one of our licensed tour operators, Escapegoat Adventures, to operate day cycling tours in one the iconic parks in Adelaide where cycling is not otherwise permitted. The ride, from the summit of Mt Lofty through to the city incorporates a tour of Cleland Wildlife Park which is also operated by the department. Riders utilise existing fire management tracks which are also shared with walkers. To date the trail is proving successful with all of the identified risks being adequately controlled. In particular the concerns originally held for interactions with walkers.
A big part of our focus lately has been to build and upgrade our trails to the very best of standards. The aim being to have trails that are more resilient into the long term. Our per km investment has increased substantially as a result but its an investment we believe is warranted with the ongoing costs around maintenance predicted to reduce. Much of these improvements have occurred on the Fleurieu Peninsula South of Adelaide, Southern Flinders Ranges and the Mt Lofty Summit Trail in the Adelaide Hills.
Part of these trail improvements is trying new and innovative solutions to age old problems. This is an image showing a new product we have trialled – ‘Grassroots Turf Reinforcement Mat’ by Geofabrics Australia The old trail here had continuous issues with landslips into the creek. Rather than patch up the trail and repair it again after the next heavy rain, we moved the trail further up the hill away from the creek and steep side slope. Soil from the new bench cut was used to fill the bench from the old trail. The Grassroots Turf Reinforcement matting was then used to cover exposed soil and the backcut of the new trail. This has significantly reduced erosion, sedimentation of the creek and enabled seed and plants to be planted on the site of the old trail alignment.
This shows more clearly how the mat was used to protect the backcut of the new trail. We’re always on the lookout for ways to make our trails more sustainable.
Turning to signs we’ve started to upgrade major trail head signs to include aerial photography based maps showing trail routes and also trail profiles to indicate elevations. This has received good feedback from walkers having given them better appreciation of the walk prior to starting. We’ve also begun the discussion on adoption of The Australian walking Track Grading System but yet to reach a decision on this. So, very keen to hear Richard Wadsworth’s session on this topic tomorrow.
We have also just commenced a trial using an emergency identification numbers on trail markers. The idea being walkers can give this number as a reference in cases of emergency that allow park staff to better identify walker location. Each marker number is GPS referenced and held on a database for park staff to access. Ideally this will enable quicker response time to walkers who are in difficulty.
On the subject of building expertise and imparting knowledge, Chris Halstead, who some of you would know, has been busy for the last 14 months working as Operations Manager for the Kokoda Track Authority. This secondment was part of Australia’s commitment to the Kokoda Initiative, a joint understanding between the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments to protect the track and improve conditions and livelihoods of the people on and around it. One of the main tasks for Chris was to recruit local staff and build skills for the locals to provide for the sustainable management of the track whilst ensuring the authenticity of the trekking experience is maintained. The new local Kokoda Track operations manager was endeavouring to attend this conference however being at the peak of the trekking season it was difficult for him to get away. There remains ongoing opportunity to engage with the Kokoda Track Authority and involve them in the broader trails community and assist in their capacity building and skills development, as well all of us learning from the Kokoda experience. Chris has mentioned he would be happy to speak to anyone who may wish to learn more about this.
Some big news for Rec and sport has been a significant increase in grant funding. Their community grant program aimed at community recreation and sport facilities has increased $5m from $1.49 to $6.49. Whilst this is not all available for trails, trails are eligible for funding. So hopefully there might be some more money flow through for community and local govt trails.
Whilst its now been out for a while, it is worth noting this publication, Guidelines for the Planning Design, Construction and Maintenance of Recreational Trails in South Australia. This was a collaborative effort guided through the South Australian Trails Coordinating Committee. Aimed to assist community groups, NGO’s, councils, really anyone involved in trails. It sets principals for good trail planning, construction and maintenance. It was recognised through the Planning Institute of Australia, winning a state award. If anyone is interested it can be downloaded from the web. www.southaustraliantrails.com/resources
The 30 year plan for Greater Adelaide was released early last year. It is South Australia’s plan of how it will need to respond in growing population by half a million people, build quarter million new houses and create almost 300,000 new jobs. Open space is integral in this plan to ensure we have accessible, liveable, healthy cities, neighbourhoods and surrounding townships. Linking this open space is also a critical component and this is where trails will receive much attention. One of the key policy positions in the plan is to establish a system of greenways to link open space, enhance biodiversity and encourage walking and cycling. Now that rec & sport are part of the That has to be a good thing.
Forestry SA have been busy upgrading many of their walking trails to multi use trails and have a program underway to replace trail markers to meet Australian Standards. They have also been driving new cross country MTB bike trails in the Cudlee Creek MTB park along with improvements to general access and now starting to plan for an expansion of the trail network. They are also planning for upgrades to overnight stops along the Kidman Trail focussed on the horse users of this trail.
So where are we heading with trails into the future? For us its all about doing it better. Structured Decision Making will become embedded in our approach to planning as will engaging more with community to understand various user expectations and wants. We will endeavour to broaden the appeal of a trail network by offering more experiences where it is appropriate to do so. We will continue to invest in trails with the objective of reducing future maintenance being paramount in design. Partnerships will be explored and trail advocacy through volunteer groups will be persued. All have links to conference themes
An example where some of these elements are coming together is a new trail network in Sturt Gorge Recreation Park. Surrounded by expanding housing development which will continue to grow as shown by the shaded area, the park has for some time through sheer demand, been the subject of ongoing unauthorised cycling access. Through the management planning process, it was identified a formal trail network for walking and cycling should be developed as a means of better managing use. The network will also connect with adjoining trail networks managed through local councils demonstrating a more holistic planning approach to achieve trail linkages across the landscape.
The planning process included consulting with recreation user groups and friends of park volunteers to better understand what was desired and also how these groups could become involved in the trails process and what benefits this could bring to the park.
Trail work has only just commenced but already the benefits are being realised, with a significant growth in Friends of Park membership involving a broader demographic. And this simply mountain bikers joining a friends group to be seen to be doing the right thing, they are participating in conservation efforts with a strong commitment to work effort in both trail construction and conservation effort such as tree plantings from everyone. This is beginning to build as a example of users valuing what they have and contributing back to the environment. Monitoring trail use will become a key indicator for this project, a key aim of which will be to reduce the level of inappropriate use of the park and improve the environmental condition surrounding trails. So far, the future is looking promising.
One of DENR’s major future trails initiatives is a new multi day walk on Kangaroo Island. This will be a 50km 4 night experience taking in the South West coast of KI offering a mix of camping and built accommodation along the trail. Expected to contribute economic benefits to the region and modelled to be financially self sustainable meaning all management and maintenance will be self generating. Key success factor will be a private sector partner to establish and operate the built accommodation. Last 2 years has been business modelling and feasibility planning along with stakeholder and community engagement to ensure there is widespread support for the concept. Our next step is testing the level of interest from potential commercial partners. Detailed planning and risk assessments are to follow.
So, hopefully I have given you an small insight into the current state of play of trails in SA. Some exciting times ahead with lots of opportunities on offer and with that comes plenty of challenges but there all worthwhile to have a leading trail network. Should you have seen something that you would like more information on or to discuss further, please feel free to catch me over the next couple of days. A couple of my colleagues, Kain Gardner and Grant Gable are also here and can provide more information and details on the more technical and operational aspects of our trails. Thank You. Questions?
state of the trails South Australia Brett Simes Commercial Development & Partnerships
What's been happening Office of Recreation & Sport Community Recreation and Sport Facilities Program grant increase of $5m to $6.49m
Guidelines for the Planning, Design, Construction and Maintenance of Recreational trails in South Australia Planning Institute of Australia - State Award Environmental Planning or Conservation www.southaustraliantrails.com/resources