The history of a long distance walking trail in WA goes back to the mid-1970s, when the Bibbulmun Track was created.
Over the years the trail has been continuously upgraded to its present level and 25 years ago Cheryl Edwards, the then Minister for Environment for WA, opened the 1000km "New" Bibbulmun Track, on September 13th 1998.
To commemorate the event, a number of intrepid walkers set out on an inaugural end-to-end walk from Albany to Kalamunda. They were joined by many others along the way who walked sections of the Track with them, and in 2008 a second walk took place to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Track.
Both walks were a great success and generated wide community awareness of the existence of recreational trails in general. So, 15 years further down the line, how better to celebrate the 25th Anniversary than with another end-to-end walk—but this time on a much grander scale!
An ambitious idea
From the beginning the whole concept of a long-distance walk trail in WA was that it should provide a free source of recreation to as wide a sample of the population as possible, from those experienced walkers who wished to undertake long distance treks to those who wanted simply to take the kids out for a day walk in the bush.
To this end, the 25th Anniversary Walk was designed to allow as many walkers as possible to participate. As well as the 10 walkers who set out to walk the whole Track, 70 others were selected to join them on a various sections of the Track.
To encourage community response to the walk, celebrations were arranged in each town along the way, involving the walkers and inhabitants of the towns, with the final event in Albany held on 13 September, the official anniversary date.
As the end-to-end walkers arrived in each town they were greeted with a warm reception, local entertainment and delicious food. These events provided a chance for the Bibbulmun Track Foundation (BTF) to thank each community for their input into building the Track and for their ongoing support of walkers through the provision of accommodation and services.
The 25th Anniversary Celebrations kicked off on 14 July with an official reception at the Zig Zag Cultural Centre in Kalamunda, followed by a rousing send-off for the walkers at the Northern Terminus.
An opening speech was made by Matthew Hughes MLA, Member for Kalamunda, who spoke about the history of the Bibbulmun Track and the vital role played by the Foundation in engaging the community and supporting DBCA with the maintenance, management and marketing of the Track.
BTF Patron Kerry Sanderson, ex-Governor of WA, spoke of her personal experience of walking the Bibbulmun Track, followed by Margaret Thomas, Mayor of Kalamunda, who spoke of how the Track had become a significant attraction for the region attracting hikers from around the world and acknowledged the vital role the town played in providing services and a warm welcome to walkers.
A final speech was made by Javier Brodalka from the Foundation’s Premier Partner, Newmont Boddington Gold (NBG), who announced that the partnership was being extended for a further five years and spoke of its importance in supporting the volunteer Eyes on the Ground maintenance program and providing volunteering opportunities for NBG staff.
Speeches over, the drumming commenced outside and the crowd made its way up to the Northern Terminus for a farewell speech from Lead Guide Steve Sertis, before he led the intrepid 10 end-to-end walkers off on their 62-day odyssey.
Welcome to the parade
Highlights along the way were many and varied, especially as they arrived in the towns at the end of each section, but the most memorable was the welcome received by the end-to-enders as they arrived at their final destination on September 13th. The last-minute downpour couldn't dampen their spirits as they walked up York Street accompanied by the Albany Pipe Band and around 50 other walkers who joined them for the last leg.
Over 140 people attended the final event in the Albany Town Hall, hosted by the City of Albany, to recognise and thank the many organisations and individuals who contributed to the development of the Track and those who continue to support and maintain it.
Walk Leader Steve Sertis was elated, “It has just been fabulous the whole way, and to finally reach Albany is amazing. The parade was amazing, the bagpipes, the people on the sides of the streets clapping as we paraded up York Street."
To organise and execute an event of this size is a major effort and the BTF would like to thank everyone who has supported them, with special recognition for the dedicated BTF volunteers, Lotterywest and DLGSC for supporting all the community events, local walks and other activities surrounding the celebration.
For more info on the Bibbulmun Track click here.