I am writing on behalf of the NSW Endurance Riders Association Inc (“NSWERA”) in response to your invitation to make a submission to the Taskforce for Tourism and National Parks (“the taskforce”.) I am also a member of the Blue Mountains Regional Advisory Committee and have a particular interest in the parks of the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains. It is good to see at last a recognition of the importance of encouraging visitors into National Parks.
The old adage “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is applicable here.
People who do not visit parks do not appreciate, value or respect them, and are less likely to give park-related issues priority whether in their community or at a political level. It is also good to see the pro-active effort at consultation with peak user groups.
Although I had already heard about this taskforce on the “grapevine”, I was very pleased to receive a formal invitation in the post to make a submission on behalf of NSWERA. It is important for the taskforce to recognise that visitation encompasses far more than the term “tourism” normally represents.
Regular park users come from the local community and do not perceive themselves as tourists.
The taskforce must recognise that attracting and encouraging regular local park users may require a very different strategy from attracting tourists making one-off or occasional visits. Endurance riders fall into both categories.
On the one hand, many riders train their horses in their local parks, making them regular and frequent park visitors.
On the other hand, riders travel widely to different locations around NSW for organised annual events, which may run in part through one or more National Parks.
In this situation, the tourism benefits extend beyond the immediate use and enjoyment of the park.
Riders and their families and helpers buy fuel and supplies, and may also choose to visit other attractions in the area.
The ride itself may benefit the local community through fundraising. In either situation, endurance riders, and horse riders generally, appreciate the opportunity to ride in national parks for a variety of reasons.
Partly of course riders enjoy the experience of riding a horse, the partnership with the animal, the social aspects of riding with friends, or the solitude of riding without them.
But for an endurance rider – and an endurance horse – ten times around a racetrack would be boring, unsatisfying and a waste of time.
Yet the same distance along a bush trail is a refreshing escape into nature and beauty for the rider (and perhaps even for the horse? who knows.) Certainly it is a satisfying and pleasurable activity for both horse and rider.
When endurance riders train their horses in national parks, they do so not just for the distances and the health and fitness benefits; they appreciate their environment, and derive great pleasure from spending time in the Australian bush. There is a positive tourism benefit to the presence of horses in national parks.
On many occasions I have stopped to allow visitors – adults as well as children – to pat my horse and take photographs, or have given directions to lost travellers. Horse riders can also give benefits back to national parks.
We are defacto “roving rangers”, reporting dumped cars, fallen trees on management or fire trails, and illegal activities such as firewood or bush rock removal. Endurance ride committees take part in track maintenance before their annual events.organisers of endurance events also pay a modest fee for the use of a park, in proportion to their amateur, non-profit nature and volunteer workforce.
However the experience in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park has shown that a permit system for horse riders unworkable due to high cost of administration, difficulty of enforcement, and limited availability on weekends for ad hoc users. Unfortunately there is still an exclusionary culture within NPWS, whereby horse riding is presumed to be prohibited by default unless specifically authorised in a plan of management or by signage.
If horse riding is not mentioned in a POM, it is not allowed.
This negativity towards horse riding in national parks is further exacerbated by the anti-horse attitude of the service shown in former years, leading to horses being locked out of areas even when the trails have a history of horse riding use and are suitable for riding. An example is Marramarra National Park in Sydney’s north-west, where the trails follow ridge tops, numbers of horse riders were low and comprised mostly local residents, yet horse riding was banned in the Plan of Management.
I personally know of two families who lived near Marramarra and who sold their homes and moved to the Hawkesbury to be closer to better horse riding opportunities.
It is no wonder that some horse riders believe they are not welcome in national parks. Further, the exclusion of horse riders from wilderness areas has led to confusion amongst the public.
Many people incorrectly believe that horse riding is not allowed at all in national parks because they do not understand the distinction between a national park and a wilderness area. The different management regimes of various land tenures also sometimes leads to a loss of continuity of riding routes.
Where former State Forests have become national parks or nature reserves, which are still surrounded by state forest, too often that segment is closed to horse riders, with NPWS directing riders to the “alternative facilities” provided by the remaining state forests.
This ignores firstly the continuity of the route, as a trail that was formerly part of a loop may now end at a fence or a gate.
Secondly it is completely fails to encourage park visitation.
NPWS needs to stop trying to send horse riders elsewhere and start inviting them into the parks.
Read more about Riding A Horse : Partly of course riders enjoy the experience of riding a….: