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Ministerial Taskforce on Tourism and National Parks in NSW

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By Rob - Posted on 29 July 2008

I just emailed this to the taskforce (see Tourism and NSW national parks) and will send hardcopy tomorrow. As they've moved the date there's plenty more time for writing and hope this will encourage others.

The Secretary
Taskforce on Tourism and National Parks
GPO Box 7050
Sydney 2001

July 8 2008

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing in response to your invitation for submissions on the Ministerial Taskforce on Tourism and National Parks in NSW.

Some time ago I was a tourist visiting Sydney and was introduced to a number of National Parks at that time. I now live in Sydney and make much use of urban National Parks in the area, and given the impression left from early visits make it a priority to take any out of town or overseas visitor to any parks I can. In addition to this when planning short breaks I will often include a visit to National Parks further afield, once again becoming a tourist visitor to these places.

From experience described above there are a few points that I believe should help visitation as part of your plan. These points are summarised first, then explained more fully after, I hope this aids your reporting processes.

So, to summarise:

  • Better general promotion both on-line and in popular tourist spots.
  • Examples of activities/suggested itineraries to draw visitors into parks.
  • No visitor centres in remote locations – only the bare essentials, probably staff free.
  • Public transport infrastructure to urban National Parks.
  • No motorised activities.
  • Equality of walking and cycling access on all trails.
  • Update the cycling policy and make it more consistent across all parks.
  • Better planning of tracks & trails.
  • Return single track alongside existing one way firetrails.

And to elaborate:

Promotion of parks, activities available in these parks and other aspects should be more prominent. Having been introduced to parks by friends as previously mentioned think it's fair to say that many people simply do not know what is out there and how these parks could be visited.

To promote parks to tourists why not place something akin to the traditional Visitors Centre in a prominent tourist hub. For example, in the centre of Sydney?

More and more tourists research their trip using the Internet before heading off. To be frank, the National Parks website is a disgrace. NSW National Parks have some of the best views on the planet, views that could so easily entice visitors in - but there are no graphics of this type on the site.

There are many activities on offer and yet no way to find parks that offer your chosen sport (walking, rock climbing, cycling, a simple picnic, etc). Drilling down through a map to an individual park gives some idea of activities, but I know for a fact this information is outdated, and there are no maps or suggested itineraries. Sad to say many tourists need leading a little, so lead away. Suggestions for how to use and hour, a day, a weekend in any particular park should be given, cycling and walking routes shown and so forth, based on user preferences.

What is the point of building a large centre at any park, when (outside of urban areas) a visitor has probably travelled a long distance to be there and will best benefit from outdoor activities on offer. Structures and services at most National Parks should be kept to a minimum.

That said, features such as notice boards with accurate maps (possibly a dispenser with copies to take – and asking that they are returned if possible), small picnic areas and camp grounds with toilet facilities are probably all that is needed, especially at remote locations where maintenance and staffing of anything more would be expensive and probably ineffective.

Many National Parks are wilderness areas and these should be left as untouched as possible. This is part of their lure to hardy souls who wish to venture on a challenging trip. Long distance walking and off road cycle touring should be encouraged in suitable areas and both activities given equal access rights.

It should be noted that off road cycling touring may well be of a lesser overall impact than walking. Many bike riders are capable of covering 100Km or more in a single day (in fact many will enter organised events run over these distances), whereas walking longer journeys such as this will most likely need an overnight stay along the way with the obvious needs that entails.

Many urban parks I visit regularly in Sydney and surrounds would be within easy reach for tourists using public transport, if only train or bus routes would service them. I love to cycle in National Parks, but Sydney roads are so dangerous for riders feel bound to drive to a park in order to cycle within – which is a ludicrous situation. I urge National Parks to liaise with other authorities to establish public transport links and cycleways (proper cycleways with lanes separate from other traffic) which can be used by tourists without a private vehicle to visit their parks.

Personally I like to bush walk, cycle and kayak where possible. There are no doubt other users who would enjoy activities such as rock climbing, horse riding or maybe simply relaxing with their family for a picnic in a natural and tranquil setting. Whatever the activity I believe it should be as low impact as possible, and without exception, activities should not involve motorised vehicles of any kind.

Of the activities mentioned above off road cycling would be my preferred method of seeing parks though. Cycling is a zero emission sport and has very low environmental impact. In fact many studies by the IMBA have shown that bike riding on trails has the same if not lower impact than a person walking the same trail. Cycling is now the 4th most popular physical activity in Australia so logic suggests that encouraging cycling in National Parks will also encourage visitors into these parks.

NSW National Parks have a rather antiquated policy when it comes to off road cycling though. In order to promote this activity I suggest you overhaul that policy, and specifically give riders equal access to trails with walkers. As I have already mentioned the impact of riding on a trail can actually be less than a walker. Whatever action is taken in this area though, consistency should be the key – thus removing confusion that tourists in particular who don't know the area well would find off-putting. In fact, promoting cycling to tourists has been shown to work very well during the summer months in Kosciusko National Park, and may well be the key to sustained tourism in that park given the affect climate change is having on the winter sports industry. That said, the Kosciusko park is also guilty of unnecessary discrimination. Several trails in this area are very wide, yet bike riders are still excluded from using them. As a rider visiting this area it's incredibly annoying and does not make one want to recommend the trip to other riders – surely this is something that must change to meet the traskforce's goals?

Current tracks and trails seem to be laid out in a rather odd manner. Many trails in parks probably evolved from fire protection needs and are 'out and back' type one way fire trail roads. While this is OK for some, to encourage new visitors these trails need to become more engaging. Not many new people will be interested in travelling out and returning via the same route. Where possible please implement a better trail network of circuits with minimal backtracking.

Even better – where dead end fire trails exist right now, why not allow building of a single track (to be used by both bike riders and walkers) alongside the existing trail to return on? If this trail were within metres even of the existing track it's objective would be met as bushland is often dense enough to allow that 'middle of no-where' feeling close to other trails. On an ecological front, if the construction of firertail in these areas is acceptable than such a small return trail within metres of that firetrail would surely be of negligable impact in comparison.

That concludes my suggestions, which I hope you find reasonable and take account of in future plans. Thank you for the opportunity to comment and I look forward to seeing recommendations the taskforce implements in the future.

Yours sincerely,

Robin Rainton

Best Mountain Bike