MARCH BEHIND ONE BANNER

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The Cape-to-Cape Track near Contos.
Camera IconThe Cape-to-Cape Track near Contos. Credit: Elements

The custodians of all the Capes region’s major trails have come together as a united front to seek urgent State and Federal Government funding.

Banded together under the Unbeaten Tracks moniker, the 15 member groups included custodians of the Cape-to-Cape Track, Wadandi Track, the Caves Road tourism drive, Busselton Jetty and the Meelup Track, among others.

Margaret River-based former South West Development Commission chairman Stuart Hicks helped co-ordinate discussions during recent months and said the joint venture was needed to maintain existing tracks as well as harness their tourism potential.

“Locals and visitors appreciate the region because they say it’s off the beaten track,” Mr Hicks SAID.

“We think the Unbeaten Tracks initiative will provide unique, natural, low-energy access, which will help keep everybody off the beaten track while ensuring we continue to safeguard and protect plants, animals and the landscape.”

Mr Hicks said integrating existing trails under one banner would connect the Capes, its towns, beaches and forests, as well as improve storytelling for the region’s Aboriginal and European histories.

“The trails are not all in good condition,” he said. “Some are in a poor state. None of the tracks join each other. They are each the responsibility of different bodies. Funds are short. There’s no consistent plan for their future, either individually or all together.”

The first funding pitch involved money to develop a master plan as the springboard for individual projects. “The region is neglecting one of its most important resources,” Mr Hicks said.

Friends of the Cape-to-Cape Track president Kevin Lange said the project would ensure the trails’ long-term sustainability and functionality.

“(It) will provide an avenue for a cohesive and co-ordinated approach to planning, and most importantly, resourcing, so that we can carry out that responsibility for the benefit of present and future users,” he said.

“(The track) is visited annually by thousands of walkers. There is pressure on the infrastructure and it is showing some signs of wear.”

Interpretive signs and wireless internet connections were already flagged for upgrades to Caves Road, and the group wanted other trails integrated within a joint framework.

Busselton Jetty chairman and ex-Parliamentarian Barry House said it made sense to include the 1800m jetty.

“We are supportive of the trails network idea,” he said.

“With the jetty and two lighthouses as ‘bookends’ of an integrated trails network, it will add another great dimension to the tourist and lifestyle attractions of this area.”

Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association and the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River were also involved.

“As well as completing unfinished sections of tracks such as the Wadandi Track, the initiative will plan for ongoing maintenance, and the protection of sites with special cultural or environmental values,” MRBTA co-chief executive Steve Harrison said.

Shire acting infrastructure director David Nicholson said officers were providing guidance on the status of existing and planned long-distance trails.

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