Parks Victoria has moved to start work on the much anticipated long-distance walking trail traversing the length of the Grampians National Park. This project has been a long time coming and one of which has been of particular interest to myself and to a number of other Victorian bushwalkers who have talked about just such a walk over the last 20 years or so.
The proposed Grampians Peaks Trail will link Mt Zero in the north to the town of Dunkeld in the south. The total distance will be approximately 148km and should take most walkers between 12 and 14 days to complete. The first stage of the Grampians Peak Trail will be to create a three-day walking loop from Halls Gap to a proposed new Rosea Hikers Campground then on to Borough Huts Campground to eventually finish back at Halls Gap. Funds of $1.6 million were approved by the Victorian Government and announced on 29 June 2010. Walkers will be able to complete sections of the trail, shorter loops or walk the entire distance (known as ‘through walkers’). The southern section of the walk will follow the Mt William Range all the way to its end (crossing Yarram Gap) to cross back over to the Serra Range and on to Signal Peak, Mt Abrupt and Mt sturgeon.
This afternoon I chatted with Graham Parks, District Chief Ranger of the Grampians National Park about the trail. He felt that this was a really exciting concept and that the first stage of the walk would be completed within 2 years or so. Funding after this period should see the entire trail completed within 5 years.
The construction of major new walking trails has largely been forgotten in Victoria, and (partly) due to funding cuts to Parks Victoria many of our best established walking trails are now in various stages of disrepair. This is especially evident in our alpine areas which has had no real trail development for as long as I can remember. Other states such as the Northern Territory (the Larapinta Trail), Queensland (The Fraser Island Great Walk) and Western Australia (the Bibbulmun Track) have recognised the importance that high-quality long-distance walks bring to their tourism industry. It’s also worth noting that each of these walks are carefully designed so that sections of the trail can be completed in shorter day stages to cater for the growing numbers of daywalkers.
Probably my greatest concern regarding the Grampians Peaks Trail was where it would be routed (especially in the Southern Grampians). I feared that Parks Victoria would take the soft option and use fire-breaks and 4WD tracks to save themselves money and time. I was pleasantly surprised when Graham said that about 60% of the walk would follow newly constructed dedicated walking trails and that the rest of the walk would follow established walking trails (many of which will be substantially upgraded). That means no walking along 4WD tracks. A big tick here. We only have to look at the Great Ocean Walk to see just how a walking trail should NOT be designed. The Great Ocean Walk follows too many shared-use 4WD tracks and has earned it the unfortunate nickname as the Not So Great Ocean Walk. Long-distance walks require a complete avoidance of all roads and 4WD tracks (except where it is necessary to cross them). It is easy to push walkers along an established 4WD track to save money (instead of constructing a dedicated walking trail) but this only serves to greatly reduce the natural experience that walkers rightly expect. Once the designers of these trails realise that walkers do not want to share their space with vehicles then maybe Victoria will see some better trails constructed. Having talked with Graham today I felt that maybe Parks Victoria have learned from their Not So Great Ocean Walk mistake and that the Grampians Peak Trail will eventually become one of the best long-distance walks in Australia. Keep your fingers crossed.
For those interested in the the strategic direction of our parks and the proposed four wild walks you may wish to download Victoria’s Nature Based Tourism Strategy brochure here.