As iconic long walks increase in popularity, they are bringing with them an unwanted problem into our national parks and beauty spots … litter … and lots of it.
Hikers on the Larapinta Trail near Alice Springs have complained that significant amounts of toilet paper is being left strewn about, distracting from the magnificence of the surroundings.
Veteran bushwalker, Michelle Forrer, told the ABC that education was the key to reducing human impact on the trails.
“This was definitely the biggest downside to my experience on the trail and I was wondering what could be done about it,” she said. “Some of it may have been dug up by animals, but a lot of it looked discarded.”
Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife said this year is set to be the busiest season ever for the 230-kilometre trail in the heart of the West MacDonnell National Park.
“In the first two weeks of July the numbers of independent walkers, not including those on commercial tours, averaged at just over 300 people per night,” NT Parks and Wildlife operations director, Chris Day, told the ABC. “One of the things that we’ve noticed is there’s probably a slightly different market on the trail this year … there’s probably a lot of people who are not what you call seasoned bushwalkers.”
He said evidence of human waste on the trail had been a problem for many years but it typically became more apparent as the tourism season wore on.
The ABC reports that NT Parks and Wildlife is in the early design stages of installing toilets on some of the higher sections of the Larapinta trail, with location approvals by traditional owners and funding yet to be secured.
In the meantime, Mr Day said there were 16 toilets along the track and he encouraged hikers to plan ahead and use the facilities.
“But where you get caught short and there is no toilet, the recommendation is to get at least 100 metres away from the trail, the campsite, any waterhole or watercourse, and dig a shallow hole and bury [the waste and the toilet paper] properly,” he told the ABC.
Of course, it is not just the hiking trails where toilet paper and other litter is a problem in this country. Many grey nomads report similar issues at rest areas and campsites, and the problem may be getting worse.