An Argument for Limiting Walker Access

Emma Schmidt. (Queensland Government)

An Argument for Limiting Walker Access

Responsible use of our unique wilderness needs a robust debate on placing limits on the track access we enjoy

Posted on 20.03.2017

One of the things most people love about bushwalking is finding some peace and quiet in a beautiful, wild place. Possibly this was not the experience most walkers had when 200 of them crammed into the Overland Track’s Waterfall Valley Hut, designed for just 24, and nearby tent sites one night.

Environment

These spikes in track use were a major reason the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (TPWS) introduced a booking system for the Overland Track (Wild issues 109 and 127) in 2004, addressing crowding that was detrimental to the environment and experience of walkers. Prior to introducing bookings, somewhere between 9,000 and 10,000 people were hiking the track each year, concentrated in the peak time of December to March. “The Overland Track was being loved to death,” says Nic Deka, Regional Manager with TPWS. The impact of crowding included the expanding footprint of campsites, increasing problems with toileting issues and the track braiding that occurs when walkers walk wide to avoid mud.

With a bookings system in place for October to May, the number of walkers is now limited to a maximum of 60 starting the track each day, covering independent walkers and those on guided trips. During these months walkers need to walk north to south to eliminate the track widening caused by people passing each other.

In the 2015/16 walking season over 8,200 hikers tackled The Overland. The overall number of walkers is similar to the time prior to the introduction of bookings but, as Nic explains, these walkers are now more evenly spread over the year and things “operate on a more sustainable basis.”

One of the things most people love about bushwalking is finding some peace and quiet in a beautiful, wild place. Possibly this was not the experience most walkers had when 200 of them crammed into the Overland Track’s Waterfall Valley Hut, designed for just 24, and nearby tent sites one night.

Environment

These spikes in track use were a major reason the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (TPWS) introduced a booking system for the Overland Track (Wild issues 109 and 127) in 2004, addressing crowding that was detrimental to the environment and experience of walkers. Prior to introducing bookings, somewhere between 9,000 and 10,000 people were hiking the track each year, concentrated in the peak time of December to March. “The Overland Track was being loved to death,” says Nic Deka, Regional Manager with TPWS. The impact of crowding included the expanding footprint of campsites, increasing problems with toileting issues and the track braiding that occurs when walkers walk wide to avoid mud.

With a bookings system in place for October to May, the number of walkers is now limited to a maximum of 60 starting the track each day, covering independent walkers and those on guided trips. During these months walkers need to walk north to south to eliminate the track widening caused by people passing each other.

In the 2015/16 walking season over 8,200 hikers tackled The Overland. The overall number of walkers is similar to the time prior to the introduction of bookings but, as Nic explains, these walkers are now more evenly spread over the year and things “operate on a more sustainable basis.”

At the heart of managing numbers on tracks is how the land and wilderness (a term that means different things to different people), and walkers’ experiences in them, are cared for.

Source
Noelene Proud
WILD Magazine

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