Trails bring multiple benefits

Closed railway lines, old walking tracks and, in some cases, drainage lines in Western Australia are being recycled into an extensive network of trails for walking, cycling and horseriding.

Originating in 1995, the idea of developing a trails system throughout the State led to the formation of Trailswest, a unit of the Ministry of Sport and Recreation. Since then, Councils, their communities and user groups have been creating a comprehensive network of trails for travel and recreation, free from the safety risks, pollution and often unattractive environments of the roads.

Construction of the trails has been assisted with funding from the Lotteries Commission of Western Australia. Further funding of $500,000 for year three of the program was announced recently with applications needing to be submitted by 31 March 2000.

Work has been undertaken by a variety of community organisations and groups including unemployed people, prisoner release schemes, Landcare volunteers and other environment and user groups. For Councils the trails not only provide an interesting recreational facility, they can also enhance opportunities for tourism, job creation and improved property values.

The City of Albany is shortly to join the scheme enhancing a network of trails already located in the region. Executive Director Strategic Planning, Rob Jeffries, said Albany's Trails Master Plan aims to build on the potential of these existing trails.

Consultant to the Albany trails Mike Maher said recreation trails provide many benefits to local communities. "Trails provide easy access to natural settings and can help satisfy a growing demand for outdoor recreation in Western Australia," he said.

"Trails also present a unique opportunity for education. Not only environmental education, but also cultural and historical, incorporating Aboriginal and European material." He said trails can also provide economic benefits to towns, a heightened sense of community consciousness and a positive impact on people's health and lifestyle.

Environmental Planner at Albany, Melanie Price, said Council's role is largely bringing people together to construct and maintain the trails, facilitating their development and supplying materials. Implementation is then largely undertaken by volunteers.

For further information contact Trailswest's Ewan McGregor, telephone (08) 9387 9731 or visit www.msr.wa.gov.au