Controversial suggestion to urbanise the Bibbulmun Track

The Bibbulmun Track could celebrate the best of Perth reads the headline of the comment piece by Frank Roberts in the April 19, 2012 edition of the West Australian. Frank Roberts is Perth architect and planner according to the footnote to the article, but there is no mention of his experience as a bushwalker or what his experience is, if any is of bushwalking or the Bibbulmun Track, but it seems that Mr Roberts expertise as an architect and planner have encouraged him to share his vision on the Bibbulmun Track.

Ball Creek Bibbulmun Track

Ball Creek Campsite Bibbulmun Track

I am not sure what to make of Mr Robert’s opinion piece. I initially thought it might have been a call to extend the Bibbulmun Track though to the Walyunga National Park and then west connecting to the Coastal Plains Walk Trail and possibility on to the coast, but alas it is instead a suggestion of extending the Bibbulmun Track into the Perth CBD and then on to the coast.

Is this really want we want of our premier bushwalking track? For sure lets encourage the development of more walking trails and greenways, but please lets be careful to not degrade the integrity of the Bibbulmun Track. Do you want to camp in the CBD? Maybe in the flight path of the airport along the river? Suburban camping your idea of getting away from it all?

Seriously I think Mr Roberts may want to stick to planning buildings and not walking tracks; I am not sure he has a real grasp of what a track like the Bibbulmun Track is about.

On a positive note it is good to see discussion of this sort. We need more of it! Maybe it will spur consideration of some valid development of the Bibbulmun Track. Personally I would love to see it connected to the Coastal Plains Walk Trail or at least extended into Walyunga National Park.

The Bibbulmun Track article in the West

The article as published in the West Australian on page 20 of the April 19, 2012 edition does not appear to be online so I have reproduced the body of the article here for your reading pleasure. Frank Roberts however has the substance of his commentary piece on his blog here.

In 1972, the planners of the Bibbulmun Track conceived a walk from Albany to Lancelin, and when you look at a map of the current track, the northern terminus at Kalamunda seems an odd place to end what is becoming one of the great walks of the world.

Perth remains so tantalisingly close. Overseas and interstate visitors would surely appreciate the walk being extended to take in the urban landscape of a major city. It’s not as if Perth isn’t a pretty place to walk through or that there isn’t a green trail (of sorts) already through the metropolitan area.

There is an opportunity to link the Indian Ocean through Perth to the Southern Ocean and create a trail which will be of use to Perth residents as well as walkers of the track. It would mean adding a few green ways to make the route continuous, and would extend the track, currently 963km from Albany to Kalamunda, to more than 1000km.

It also seems odd that the track has adopted the wagyl as its symbol and track marker and then ignored Perth. According to Noongar culture, the wagyl is a snakelike dreamtime creature responsible for the creation of the Swan and Canning rivers, as well as other waterways and landforms around present day Perth. And the wagyl reputedly appointed the Noongar as guardians of the land.

Legend has it that the wagyl slithered over the land, his track shaped the sand dunes, his body scoured out the course of the rivers; where he occasionally stopped for a rest, he created bays and lakes. Piles of rocks are said to be his droppings, and such sites are considered sacred. As he moved, his scales scraped off and become the forests and woodlands of the region.

As the wagyl is strongly associated with rivers and lakes such as Lake Monger, and is supposed to reside deep beneath springs, perhaps the route through Perth should follow its waterways.

Western suburbs councils are researching pedestrian trails, with one interesting possibility being a Swanbourne/Bold Park/Underwood Avenue/Kings Park route.

A route through central Perth could enliven the city, celebrate the landscape of a green city and perhaps influence the final planning of open space around Perth Waterfront and the location of the pedestrian link to the planned Burswood stadium.

East of the city to Burswood it could take in Langley Park, Heirisson Island and its Aboriginal connections. West of the city, it could traverse Kings Park, hopefully by way of a better link than climbing Jacob’s Ladder. What about a cable car system based on the one in Wellington or in Bergen, Norway?Through Kings Park, Shenton Park and Underwood Avenue bushland, Bold Park and you’re at Swanbourne.

By adding a few green footbridges over busy roads, the Southern and Indian Oceans have been linked.

A trail through to Fremantle is an alternative. It could hug the banks of the rivers (Helena, Canning and Swan) from Guildford to the port city, taking people through barely known tracts of riverside beauty east of Perth.

Perth desperately needs to add to its stock of hotel rooms, and walk trails through the city and suburbs could encourage the growth of bed and breakfast accommodation.

A smorgasbord of tracks allows for choice with one officially being designated as an extension to the Bibbulmun Track.

The gain to Perth will be a network of pedestrian links, an encouragement to walk, to appreciate the scenery and discover new places, to better understand Aboriginal and colonial culture and heritage and to feel pride in a connected city.

The Bibbulmun Track was opened in 1979 and was extended and re-routed in 1988. What better way to celebrate its 35th birthday in October 2014 by investing the next two years in planning and implementing an extension through Perth?


Your Turn To Talk

I hope you liked this post! Please do stop by the comment section below and share your thoughts on the Frank Robert’s vision for the Bibbulmun Track with the rest of us.

Has Frank Roberts got it right? Have I got it wrong? Are there better ideas? Please do share your thoughts by leaving a comment below 🙂


8 Responses to Controversial suggestion to urbanise the Bibbulmun Track

  1. Jacko April 23, 2012 at 8:26 PM #

    He has got it totally wrong.
    The Bibbulmun is a wilderness (well sort of) walk that is modelled on/inspired by the Appalachian Trail (AT).
    The AT starts and finishes on mountaintops miles from anywhere and to get to and from the trailheads requires miles of strenuous hiking that doesn’t even count as part of the trail.
    The Bibbulmun is already a bit “wussy” for being within 100 metres of a supermarket at both trailheads.
    Urban walking trails such as he suggets are a fine idea but don’t impinge on the reputation of the Bib by making it an extension. At best you could refer to it as an “urban approach trail”.

    • Aushiker April 23, 2012 at 10:52 PM #

      I am with you Jacko. I do think the author has got it wrong. I aslo agree the Bibbulmun Track is a bit wussy. I have seen it described as the world’s greatest road. Maybe a bit harsh 🙂

  2. Joe April 25, 2012 at 7:36 AM #

    I believe he has some great ideas, that would make a great walk track even better, I would also like to see it extended to the Fitzgerald National Park.

    • Aushiker April 30, 2012 at 3:54 PM #

      Thanks for your thoughts Joe. I suspect given that the Fitzgerald River National Park is wilderness it is unlikely to happen.

      I am curious but as to how you see the urbanisation of the Bibbulmun Track would enhance the backpacker’s experience.

  3. Greg April 25, 2012 at 7:42 PM #

    A Swanbourne/Bold Park/Underwood Avenue/Kings Park walking track or a track taking in Burswood, Langley Park, Heirisson Island and its Aboriginal connections and up to Kings Park would be brilliant, but not for the Bibbulmun Track.

    I’m not sure how they would like the current trailhead in Kalamunda to Lancelin or if they should even try.

    • Aushiker April 26, 2012 at 4:00 PM #

      Thanks for your comments Greg. I agree, a decent urban walking trail would be fantastic … there has been some discussion/proposals for same. Not sure where they are at but.

      Extending the Bibbulmun Track north and to the coast is probably unrealistic but extending the Coastal Plains Walk Trailto Walyunga may be possible. Heck pushing it through to Avon National Park would make it a great seven to 14 day walking track.

  4. Frank Roberts April 26, 2012 at 2:50 PM #

    Hi If the author could have an opportunity to reply.

    The original website article did mention a possible John Forrest National Park/Walyunga route skirting Perth. (This could take in Kalamunda, Darlington, John Forrest NP, Swan Valley, Walyunga, Moondyne, Yeal, Lancelin). Linda Daniels (Secretary to the Bibbulmun Track Foundation) who appeared on the Geoff Hutchison ABC 720 program on the day the article was printed also mentioned the work the Swan River Trust is doing on a possible 3 rivers track (Helena, Canning, Swan) as well as the planned Pilgrims Trail following Dom Salvado’s trek from Subiaco to New Norcia via Guildford.

    I certainly take on board comments made on Aushiker and the Bibbulmun’s Facebook page likening an urban extension to a devaluation of the essential bush spirit of the Bibbulmun Track. But as an architect and planner, my take was more on improving Perth with the addition of connected pedestrian (and cycle) trails linking up our many green spaces. Rather than the mindless (and often treeless) urban sprawl planned around the car, I would like Perth re-planned around natural land forms, and re-scaled as a rail/light rail/pedestrian friendly place

    My friend and colleague, the sadly departed George Seddon, celebrated the uniqueness of Perth and its setting in ‘ Sense of Place’ UWA Press 1972. Stephen Scourfield, another of Seddon’s disciples and Travel Editor at the WestAustralian, wrote similarly on Perth – A City in the Forest. His article is well worth the read.

    Bill Bryson’s book on the Appalacian Trail (A Walk in the Woods) and subsequent interviews bemoaned that the AT did not pass through towns and cities along the route, making it less of a ‘rustic Whitmanesque rustic ramble’ and more of a contrasting wilderness/settlement experience. As a wussy walker, I share this view. The two days lay up drying clothes and tent in a Penzance B & B made walking the Cornwall Coastal Path walk a lot more pleasant.

    • Aushiker April 30, 2012 at 3:55 PM #

      Thanks for taking the time to respond and to expand on your thinking. Good to have these discussions in my view.

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