7 October 2021
The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions has a responsibility to promote and conserve our parks and reserves so that visitors can access, enjoy and appreciate Western Australia’s extraordinary natural environment into the future. The Bibbulmun Track is one of the world’s greatest long distance walk trails and is an outstanding example of such recreational opportunities.
The use of wheeled vehicles and devices has not been permitted on the Bibbulmun Track as a general rule. The Track passes through extensive areas of Dieback Risk Areas (DRA), where the movement of wheeled vehicles is restricted by law to minimise the potential spread of dieback. The department assesses requests for access into DRA in regards to disease risk and other environmental impacts on a case-by-case basis. If the request is considered appropriate and necessary a DRA permit is provided. Conditions under a DRA permit include:
· Use of a wheeled trailer is only permitted in dry soil conditions.
· Maintain and clean the wheeled trailer so that it is free of soil, vegetative matter and root material prior to entry into Disease Risk Areas.
· Ensure no movement or transfer of soil occurs at any time within Disease Risk Areas.
As you can imagine, this would be difficult to achieve while on the Track.
Environmental impacts from a wheeled trailer can include damage to the tread of the track, especially in soft, sandy or muddy conditions. The continuous wheel track can damage erosion features, which have often been installed by volunteers.
In addition, the Bibbulmun Track was designed as a walking track and not designed for wheeled modes of travel. The Track is classified as Class 4 under Australian Standards 2156, which in part describes Class 4 tracks as ‘generally distinct without major modification to the ground. Encounters with fallen debris and obstacles are likely’. This represents the character of the Bibbulmun Track and is part of the experience hikers seek. It is important that people are aware that any attempt would be a very demanding challenge and may not be practically or physically possible, and not easier for people with physical limitations.
While there are sections of the Track that may be suitable for a wheeled trailer, typical obstacles along the Track would include the following.
- Fallen trees/logs – along the full length of the Track, there are a considerable number of fallen trees over the Track. Not all of these logs are removed or cleared from the Track. Many have been left in place to assist in deterring trail bikes and mountain bikes. The larger logs may have sections cut out to form steps to assist walkers.
- Rocky outcrops – large sections of the Track traverse ridges and through rocky outcrops, requiring walkers to hop from rock to rock and clamber through boulders.
- Log bridges – within the karri forests in the south west, there are several log bridges, with steps onto the log on either end and a narrow tread suitable for single file walkers.
- Soft sand and beaches – particularly along the south coast, there are numerous sections of the Track aligned along beaches and constructed through deep sands in coastal dunes.
- Steps – There are steep sections of Track in various locations, requiring the construction of steps and flights of stairs to assist walkers and protect environmental values. Many sections of stairs/steps are significant and there are no alternative routes due to thick vegetation.
- Inlet crossings – there are four inlet crossings along the south coast that need to be traversed –
· The Irwin Inlet is crossed via the use of canoes stored onsite, with walkers loading their packs into the canoes and have to paddle across the inlet.
· The Parry Inlet is crossed via a season sandbar, or a long alternative walking route around via the roads if the sandbar is not crossable.
· The Wilson Inlet can be crossed via the seasonal sandbar and walking around the edge of the inlet to connect up to the track, via car ferry from Denmark around to the Nullaki Peninsular, or a long alternative walking route via trails and roads around the inlet.
· The Torbay Inlet can be crossed via a seasonal sandbar, or a long alternative walking route around via the roads if the sandbar is not crossable.
- Fencing stiles – the Track crosses many land tenures, including state government managed lands (various agencies), local government and private property. As such, there are numerous fences to cross, and while some have gates, many have stiles installed to assist walkers over the fences.
As the Bibbulmun Track is designated as a walking track a lawful authority is required for any wheeled access, which considers all of the above information, as well as visitor safety.
In order for people to make an informed decision about a potential hike with a wheeled trailer it is important that they understand the Track conditions and the challenges that pulling a trailer would present. We know of a few people (who managed to be granted a permit) that have tried to use a trailer and have given up early in the piece with one person stating that it took them almost 10 hours to travel 3km on one section.
An alternative for hikers with wheeled trailer is the Munda Biddi Trail, as it was designed and built for wheeled modes of travel and aligned outside of DRA. Walkers are permitted on the Munda Biddi Trail.