Friends’ interest is enjoyment of trails
I refer to assertions reportedly made by Ray Swarts (Diversion call renewed, 28/7): “the project’s advocates were few and had vested interests”.
There is, in fact, a large number of advocates for this trail.
The Friends of the Cape to Cape Track have been strongly advocating this project for more than five years. We have some 250 members.
Also, about 18,000 people use the track annually and many of these, though non-members, have pointed out both the hazardous nature of the current situation, and their regret at having not been able to view this beautiful section of the world-renowned Margaret River.
There has been a significant support base for this trail from MPs, government departments, local government and community members.
Yes, responsible tour operators, who are passionate about preserving all that is best of this region, may also be advocates for the trail, but we have not set out to canvass their views.
We have not rallied supporters, developed petitions or stacked meetings.
Vested interest? Yes, we have a vested interest and that is to allow locals and visitors alike to enjoy this unique part of the world in an environmentally sustainable fashion.
Designated tracks, around the world, enable the public to enjoy, appreciate and value the environment, with no environmental impact.
It is unreasonable to hope that the public will appreciate and value the natural environment if they are prevented from experiencing it first-hand.
As for the Friends, the enormous amount of time spent making grant applications, and attending several planning meetings with Shire staff has all been provided voluntarily.
The strip of land along the river is a public reserve, vested in the Shire for “Recreation and Conservation”.
People have every right to access this public reserve and are doing so in increasing numbers.
Unfortunately, where there is no designated track, they can wander in an ad-hoc manner, potentially damaging vegetation and habitats as they go.
A designated track would remedy this situation.
A track has been part of the council’s Corporate Plan since 2014. The Friends have been able to raise more than a quarter of a million dollars to further the project.
These funds were offered, in their entirety, to the Shire with no conditions attached other than that they be used to build a world-class, safe and environmentally sensitive track.
It is highly regrettable that, only a small portion of the funds have been spent ($68,000).
The process has been anything but rushed: planning and gaining approvals began at least as early as 2014.
However, the $50,000 the Shire contributed, and the money that has been spent, has enabled all but 200m of the diversion trail to be built.
Apart from that 200m section, the track can be, and is being, used by the public.
However, if walkers are going to transverse the 200m melaleuca grove, without damaging the environment, then at certain times of the year a boardwalk is required, or private land acquired, to divert the alignment around the grove.
The rest of the funds raised by the Friends would also have covered the cost of the boardwalk but due to the delays mainly from council action, we have not been able to meet the acquittal date requirements and these unspent funds (about $161,000) will now have to be relinquished.