Executive summary

Western Australia is remarkable for its landscapes and climate. The diversity of a temperate coastal region, semi-arid and arid deserts of the interior, and a tropical north sustains its vast, unique and distinctive landscapes. 

There is a vibrant bushwalking and trail running community in the State, made up of a diverse range of individuals, commercial providers, organisations and agencies. Participation in trail running is growing exponentially and recreational walking continues to be the most popular form of physical activity. Hiking provides immense and far-reaching social, cultural, economic, environmental, health and wellbeing benefits to Western Australian individuals, communities, and the State. 

Western Australia is leading the way in the strategic planning for high-quality hiking experiences, having an extensive user-friendly website of trails and being the first State to develop an activity-specific strategy for bushwalking and trail running.

The WA Hiking Strategy was informed by a review of existing literature, a community survey that attracted 1720 responses, targeted interviews, statewide industry forums and public comment. The findings have resulted in the identification of four strategic objectives, with accompanying recommendations.

This strategy has determined that trail runners have many of the same motivators and needs and enjoy most of the same trails and infrastructure as bushwalkers. However, improvements need to be made in regards to barriers to participation, event management, governance structures, advocacy, and resourcing to ensure the safe and sustainable growth of these activities.

Almost two-thirds of Australians are insufficiently active and children with at least one inactive parent are 68% more likely to be inactive themselves. 

Existing hikers identified one of their strongest reasons for participating was to support their mental and physical health, whilst appreciating the scenic beauty of their natural surroundings. There is a need for more gateway opportunities to hiking, more pathways to develop skills, and more experiences of varying challenge, whilst decreasing barriers to participation.

In the year ending June 2019, WA saw an 11.5% increase in holiday visitors. WA’s unique and pristine natural environments, including its beaches and coastline, are the main reasons visitors choose to holiday in our State. Aboriginal cultural and tourism experiences are sought by residents and visitors alike. Growing the visitor economy will be facilitated through increased awareness of existing trails and experiences as well as supporting the development of new iconic, multi-day and Aboriginal cultural experiences.

Achieving sustainable trails will require innovative and collaborative trail planning, design, funding, maintenance, training and management. Research revealed that hikers cite being able to access trails close to home as a strong reason for their use. Almost 80% of WA residents live in the Perth metropolitan region, yet only about one quarter of existing hiking trails are within close proximity and are not necessarily serving the needs of users.

One of the central recommendations for this strategy is to determine and set up a governance structure for hiking activities. A new steering committee, guided by the Trails Reference Group, will develop an implementation plan in the first six months of the publication of this strategy. Encouraging cross-industry advocacy and strengthening hiking groups and their volunteers will contribute towards effective governance and advocacy in the long term. 

 

Publication Information

ISBN 978-1-921648-62-5

Published by the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, June 2020.

Acknowledgment

This project was jointly funded by the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC) and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA). The document was produced by a partnership between the Project Management Group (PMG) and Common Ground Trails. Industry support and technical input was provided by a Stakeholder Reference Group (SRG).

Project Management Group

Steve Bennett (DLGSC)
Bernadette Benson (elite level trail and ultra runner) 
Linda Daniels (Trails WA)

Stuart Harrison and Kerstin Stender (DBCA)

Stakeholder Reference Group

Jamie Bennett (Outdoors WA)
Chelle Fisher (Down Under Discoveries)
Holly Fisher (independent bushwalker – intermediate level)
Chris Mawson (Perth Bushwalkers Club and Sport and Recreation Management Degree, University of Notre Dame, WA)
Melina Mellino (Perth Trail Series) 
David Osborne (HikeWest)
Ian Newell (independent trail runner – advanced level) 
Sue O’Connor (Adventurous Women)
Lisa Payne (independent trail runner – intermediate level) 
Mark Pybus (The Life of Py)
 

Conflicts of interest were managed by DLGSC.

The authors of the WA Hiking Strategy acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.

Disclaimer

Common Ground Trails Pty Ltd, its employees, directors and associated entities shall not be liable for any loss, damage, claim, costs, demands and expenses for any damage or injury of any kind whatsoever and howsoever arriving in connection with the use of this document or in connection with activities undertaken on trails generally.

While all due care and consideration has been undertaken in the preparation of this document, Common Ground Trails Pty Ltd advise that all recommendations, actions and information provided in this document is based upon research as referenced in this document.

Common Ground Trails Pty Ltd and its employees are not qualified to provide legal, medical or financial advice.

Accordingly, detailed information in this regard will require additional professional consultation in order to adequately manage and maintain the facilities and reduce risk.

Page reviewed 31 January 2020