Visitor Attitudes and Erosional Impacts on the Coast Walk, Royal National Park

Deirdre Dragovich, Sunil Bajpai

Abstract


National Parks preserve native fauna and flora and provide recreational opportunities for visitors. However, eroded and degraded trails threaten the ecological integrity of Parks and diminish their recreational, aesthetic, cultural and educational value. Pathway erosion has the potential to divert visitors’ attention from the enjoyment of nature and to make travel uncomfortable, difficult or unsafe. Problems of recreational use in protected areas are known to be a function of user numbers and visitor attitudes and behaviour. This research surveyed 100 users of the 26 km long Coast Walk. Most Park visitors were from Sydney and nearby regions (88%), many were young adults (37%), and a high proportion of visitors had tertiary qualifications (66%). Visitors were mainly attracted to the Park for the beauty of nature (77%) and the desire to exercise (49%). Most visitors noticed erosion on the trails: 91% of ‘Frequent’ visitors were aware of erosion and 75% of ‘First time’ visitors. Almost half of the users (43%) indicated that they have sometimes trampled vegetation in their attempt to avoid uneven walking surfaces. A well-maintained, well-indicated and even-surfaced walking track will be perceived as safe and comfortable to walk on, thereby reducing erosion-related degradation of pathways and damage to surrounding vegetation.

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