Marking and Maintaining Access trails
Keeping on Track. Simple concept hey?
Staying on trail. But which trail? What if there is no trail?
(Established trail) (Multiple social trails) (New climbing and bouldering)
Hmmm….Now it sounds a bit more complex.
As more people take up climbing and bouldering and then head into the bush, the issue of trails – the creation and the maintenance of them, becomes more and more a topic on the land managers blackboard. This then becomes more of an issue that we in the climbing community, need to take on board and work towards resolving. So addressing some of the problems now, hopefully can prevent them into the future as new climbing areas are created.
Why is staying on the trail so important?
Fragile plant life. Walking off trail means you will be trampling vegetation. Much of this is fragile. The parks now more than ever are also at risk of invasive plant species – weeds. Some of the native vegetation is in a struggle to survive as it is. Once it is gone, it basically allows the often stronger invasive species to take over with the indigenous plants never returning.
Erosion and Instability. A domino effect. When you trample vegetation, over time it doesn’t regenerate, leaving the top soil exposed. This is then lost through a combination of foot traffic,rain and wind. The problems with this are multiple. Gullies are formed and become water runnels which further erodes the area. As the gullies deepen, people walk a little further to the side to avoid them and the process starts all over again. Wider and wider sections of vegetation are lost and the trails and surrounding area become unstable.
So, First and Foremost –
Stay on the established trail. That means going into and out of a climbing area. In most cases established trails, whether they are formal ones created by land managers or the informal climbers access tracks, have been created to provide sustainable routes. If the trail is muddy or vegetation grows across, continue to stick to the trail rather than travelling wider to avoid. This just creates a new track or a wider one. Going off trail damages the environment. For all the reasons noted.
Creating New Tracks
The reality of developing new climbing and bouldering areas often means that people will go off track. If there is no way of staying on an established trail, please do this thoughtfully. And minimally. Guidelines to take onboard –
Choose the less steep option. Unless it is on a rock surface, steepness means erosion later on. Switchbacks are better options for steep ground. Going steep because it cuts a little time off getting to the climb isn’t worth the loss of our native habitat.
Gullies aren’t great as access tracks. Gullies are formed by water which means that excessive foot traffic will further speed up the erosion process as the gullies become deeper.
Stay on durable surfaces ie rock whenever possible, to spare fragile plant life.
Digging and disturbing soil – leave the tools at home. All of the parks in Victoria are required to adhere to the Aboriginal Act (2009). And before any soil can be moved, a cultural heritage inspection needs to take place to ensure that no cultural heritage is being impacted by soil being moved. For instance, if Parks Victoria want to put in a new trail, they are required by law to first get clearance to do so and that means getting a cultural heritage inspection along with a variety of other requirements.
Don’t install any infrastructure.
Refrain from cutting or breaking any native vegetation to create a trail.
And lastly – if there are any areas on climber’s access tracks that have issues, be it erosion, fallen trees, new multiple social tracks growing etc, drop CliffCare a line firstname.lastname@example.org and we can go from there. It is up to us to try and prevent and manage issues before they become major but as they are generally in state and national parks, it is also about going about this in a more thoughtful way and working with the land managers.
This can be found here: https://cliffcare.org.au/about/education/tracks/