[5th World Trails Conference 2015] Trail Resuscitation and Restoration (1) | Western Australia | Trail revitalizing case study from Western Australia

 5th World Trails Conference 2015


Western Australia | Trail revitalizing case study from Western Australia

 Kerstin Stender –  Trails Coordinator, Bibbulmun Track / MundaBiddi Trail 

Thursday, January 15, 2015, Seogwipo ICC

Presentation Slides Download (PDF)

Thank you for inviting me here today. It is such a pleasure to speak to you all.

I am from Western Australia and work for the Department of Parks and Wildlife. I am the trails coordinator there so if you wish to come to Australia it is a very big country and the climate changes quite a lot, so make sure if you want to come hiking in Western Australia to come in autumn or spring-time.

I represent three long distance iconic trails, but I am also responsible for policy for another 600 trails in the state of Western Australia. The Bibbulmun Track and Cape to Cape Track are two walking trails and I will primarily talk about those. The Cape to Cape Track is a track that I am currently in a revitalizing program with so most of my examples will come from that, but because I am only halfway through I am also using examples from the other two trails [Munda Biddi is the third trail].

First I’ll give you some instructions on how to develop a framework and then we will look at organizational structures. Branding and signage. Trail infrastructure itself.


The trail development and revival process is essentially the same process as if you were developing something new or if you are making some major changes like major re-alignment or a major change to how the trail looks.

So some of the key elements of trail development and review process are the essential components to have what makes a trail a sustainable trail. And these are:

1) Long term appeal

2) Positive impact on the environment and heritage

3) Valued and supported by local community

4) Robust, durable and fit for purpose

5) Well managed and maintained

6) Acceptable to land managers

7) Complies with standards

The process you go through before commencing construction for me it takes about 3 quarters of the time for planning. So developing the proposal and setting up your framework and your framework includes a project outline. A key understanding of your project objectives, your stakeholders, your roles, your requirements, and execution. It also includes your management models so I guess it is really the key part of any new project but also any revision to any realignments you’re looking to do to ensure that you’re looking to build or maintain the right trail in the right place. You then move through to site assessment, concept planning, evaluation until you finally get to construction and management. But I think you often shortcut and not end up with the right trail in the right place.

Moving on now after the framework we need to look to see what are the key aspects of a chosen management model. These aspects I’ve identified here are things that every trail should consider to be a successful and sustainable trail.

Visitor Information, product is your trail and destination is your community environment. The roads, the accommodation, and transportation services. Marketing promotion, visitor management, infrastructure and community engagement. Without community support your trail is unlikely to survive.

So in Western Australia we tend to manage our trails through partnership between government and community not-for-profit organizations. I’m the government department.We have a MOU that sets out who is responsible for that, so really the visitor risk and infrastructure is primarily the responsibility of the government. The community engagement, the volunteer maintenance program and some of the visitor information tends to sit with the community partner.

Now moving on into the actual review. Signage is an essential aspect of any trail and provides added identification through naming and branding color and design. It directs visitors and aids them, aids in minimizing environmental impact. It also provides interpretation for cultural and environmental behavior codes.

These are the types of signs and I’ll take you through them very briefly. Before we do that though the first thing we do is for each trail we have we set up a signage prescription. The color, the design, the logo and the types of signs that we would use so that they are always the same and recognizable for that trail.

So for an example this is the logo we use for the Munda Biddi trail. The center piece is the logo that we use for the community partner. And on the right side you can actually see the logo that we have out in the field on the post. You can see the branding across all three of those.

On this example which is from my current review you can see the logo that we use on the left the community partner in the middle and the actual marker that you see out in the field on the right and you can see that they are different so what we want to do is have one kind of branding that goes across all of those. I have brought a marker to show you because the other thing that is good about markers is if they are directions. With that one there you can point to the direction of travel.

We use aluminium screen printing to make the trail markers last a very long time. So we don’t need to replace them more than every 10 years or more.

For walking trails we only mark every 500m if there is no turning off opportunity. The cycling trails we mark every 1000m because we don’t want too many signs out there. That is in our view sufficient.

Signage and Marking

So moving on to the interpretive signage, this is the sign that we use on the Mundabiddi trail and it should enough information for you to be able to decide if this is something you want to do and have the capacity to do so but not too much so you feel put off by having to read too much.

Here you can see a smaller trail head which is a middle kind of trail head. The old one of the left and the new one on the right which has also now a new color scheme.

I get asked a lot to assess maps, brochures and slides to ensure the correct information is on those so while I won’t take you through this, this is the table I have developed for myself to ensure the important info is on each of the different types of publications that we use. On the right side you can see a long trail map, short trail map. I tick to whatever should be on there. As I come across maps, brochures, and trail heads I can go through the list and see are all the things on there that should be on there. It’s a tool for me to asses the information that we provide to the visitors.

One of my first experiences of being out on the trail was cycling from from the north to the south of Sweden when I was a teenager. I had a road map. I wasn’t thinking about hills and mountains and I found myself out of nowhere having to push my bicycle uphill a whole day and find myself in an alpine area because the map didn’t have contour lines on it. So it was a very good lesson on what should and shouldn’t be on a map.

I will provide you with a very brief overview about management including risk to show you what we have. And this is is what I use to see what you have on this trail and what there should be.

So this signage alerts you to a risk and should also give you how to avoid the risk.

We are now implementing in Western Australia new international symbols that are used for travelers that don’t speak the language that we have so these kind of symbols you will start seeing throughout our land and hopefully all of you will be able to see from the symbols the images to what the risk is.

When we have to close the trail we put in attention signs with a diversion map for whatever that might be for fire, so this gives visitors the information of where to go and where the closure goes. It provides a map and information of the closure.

Cautionary signs provide additional information for visitors to remain safe and also to protect cultural sites.

Regular tourist signs provide information about who can use and what is is okay to do in a particular area.

We also have signs for cars to alert them that trail users will be on the road or crossing the road. Sometimes we alert cars to kangaroos on the road.

So moving away from signage now and moving on to trail infrastructure. On the right you can see branded Bibbulmun Track three-sided timber huts. And again as part of the branding as well. We have a standard of how we build those and how they look. And of course other infrastructure are stairs, bridges, toilets, water tanks, look outs, picnic tables.

As part of a trail revival process it is important to know what infrastructure you have on your trail. On the left side of the table you can see the numbers. The total of each type of asset, the second one under works, means work is required. And those kind of assets, a percent of that. And then the importance of the work to be undertaken. On the right side we have visitor risk management, so the most urgent priority of work to be undertaken.

A graph like this shows me an overview where my liabilities and my risks are. You can see I have more log steps than anything else and logs steps are unfortunately very poor and an old fashioned way of designing steps. I will show you some photos in a minute. Also you can see that my main visitor risk is through old signage.

Here on the left you can see the old pine logs we used to use. Sometimes we used to use them unfortunately due to low knowledge of staff who implemented those. On the right side you can see the same section on how we put in box steps. So that these have much more sustainable and will last much longer. On the left you can see there are now a trip hazard and now longer fulfill the purpose. People will actually walk around those.

When I look at infrastructure I just do not look at is it safe, but I also come back to the branding so these two set of stairs are both on the Cape to Cape Track. They are very different as you can see. The one on the right will last for a long time, but really stands out. It is shiny and silver in the environment. There are different types of design. We really try to stick to one type of design for stairs and bridges.


My last section is about erosion. It is for me and for many of you the biggest problem in maintaining trails so building good trails to start off with with good construction techniques or revising and realigning to make sure you have built it to the best standards that you can will ensure you have low maintenance in the future. Erosion is caused by wind, water, and also by mechanized impact such as your walking boots. and will be determined by the slope and soil type primarily.

To be able to understand your problems you need to be able to know what the grade of your trail is how the grade sits with the soil that you have. So clinometer is used how you assess the grade.

clinometer allows you to look at ground level at another person’s eyes and then as the person goes up and you look at their eyes again it would show you the grade of the trail on your screen in front of your eye. The worst type of trail to build or have and I have a lot of that is the one that goes straight down the hill because that’s where the water flows the fastest and picks all the finds and also some of the large components of the soil.

It’s only the large rocks that are left so this indicates that you have a high level of speed of water that travels down the slope. Here are two rules that we use and I have a couple more to come that will assist you in aligning your trail or if you are realigning it and planning a diversion to what you currently have. But if you can see the problems from the previous photo you know you need to do something about it. What we have here is the 10% rule. So the trail alignment should never be more than 10% of the overall slope. We also have the half rule. So if your slope is not steep, then 10% might be the overall slope of the hill you have. It should never be more than half of the overall slope of your grade.

The other rule we always apply is that the trail should have an out-slope so that the water sheds across the trail rather than down the trails itself. If it sheds across then the impact from the water on the soil is very minimal.

This is what happens to the trail when the water cannot wash off the trail because you can see on the lower side here the water doesn’t flow across it. Then it takes the easiest path which is down the trail. To fix this you would have to take out this whole edge to ensure the slope can be like that and the water can shed across.

Here are different forms of how people construct the trail tread. Only the out-slope is the correct way to do it because only the out-slope will allow the water to shed across. Some people will build the trail like this to build it flat but after not long this outer edge here will prevent the water from shedding across. It will run down your trails. Same here. The water will run down the trail.

Quite often what I do when it only has a little bit of the slope I only remove the organic matter matter and I leave the natural slope as it is. Doing less is often better than doing major construction.

Here’s an example of a perfect trail. The rolling contours and grade make sure that the water can shed off across the trail and also at the low points you can see here in case you have built up a bit of an edge. This is the perfect trail that you should all aim for.

Different soils have different abilities to hold the grade so some of the pictures you have seen from me have been to build in the sand and beach environment, That is the worst type of soil to hold. The best is clay and gravel that will hold the grade higher than any other.

These graphics that I’ve shown you from the trail erosion and trail construction were taken from the International Mountain Biking Association books. Mountain bikers have a vested interest to have a really good trail tread because cyclists can’t ride when the soil is soft. They can’t use steps so having a good alignment is a really great thing we can learn from mountain bikers.

If all else fails and you have to do a lot of construction in the sand you need to bring in trail hardening materials like gravel with clay or also plastic type track pads where you dig a trench and put in the track pad which you then back fill which allows you to stabilize the walking erosion you’re on and minimize the erosion.

These are some photos of where we’ve gone back to an existing trail to revitalize it and ensure that the damage done to the environment is not so huge and the kind of machinery which is narrow and small but all slow and expensive to do. Wherever you can avoid doing this kind of work it is much better to realign but sometimes this is what you need to do.

And that’s the end. Thank you very much.

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