Since 1999 Access For All Inc., with its 500 members, has been campaigning against the restricted public access to public lands such as national parks, reserves and declared wilderness areas.
AFA Chairman, Brian Clarke of Moruya, says, “Over the years there have been rallies, meetings with members of Parliament and Opposition spokespersons and numerous written submissions, but little has changed. In fact it got a lot worse with wholesale wilderness declarations than denied access to historic bridle tracks”.
Finally, it seems there may be some good news on the horizon with the Minister for the Environment, Robyn Parker, issuing a Draft Strategic Plan for horse riding in NSW national parks and reserves, in which she says, “Horse riding is a popular activity that has strong cultural associations for many Australians.” [The proposed strategy], “will guide the provision of improved horse riding opportunities in NSW national parks and reserves over the coming years.…….Recreational horse riding contributes to our tourism industry. This strategy could increase the number of visitors to rural and regional towns to enjoy our national parks and reserves.”
The strategy also provides for a three year trial of horse riding in a wilderness location. Brian Clarke says, “This is particularly encouraging for Access For All as the recent Wilderness Declarations meant that historic bridle tracks of the south coast and hinterland were lost to horse riders without any consideration”.
Local historian and AFA member, Peter Smith, says, “Two of these tracks, in particular, have contributed greatly to the commercial development and settlement of the area, The Shoebridge Track and the W.D. Tarlinton Track”. Brian Clarke is keen to point out that these tracks were closed not because of damage or degradation, in fact Access For All has worked closely with the local NPWS assisting in clearing and maintaining the tracks even though they have been closed to horse riders. Access For All is preparing a submission for consideration in the draft plan. An important part of the ongoing work following the submission will be the documentation and mapping of the many tracks on the south coast and tablelands. Many of the tracks are known only to locals of an area, so it is important that everyone is invited to contribute. Access For All aims to list as many of the tracks as possible in the belief that if a track is not identified, it will not be included in future considerations by the NPWS.