Managing and Maintaining New Trail Destinations in WA

We acknowledge the Aboriginal people of the Noongar nation as the Traditional Owners of the land through which these trails pass.

Managing and Maintaining New Trail Destinations in Western Australia 

Governance and Sustainability

Western Australia is experiencing an unprecedented investment in new trails across the state. As these projects move from development to operation, there are a range of roles and functions that need to be fulfilled by the trail ‘operators’ to ensure the new trail networks are fully activated and operating at their maximum potential.  

These roles and functions include trail and facility maintenance and management, marketing and activation and the ongoing development of the trail networks. It is vital that the trail destinations continue to evolve and be promoted with new products and experiences to encourage people to keep returning so that the investments reach their potential. Good trail conditions also need to be maintained so that visitors continue to have an excellent experience on well-maintained trails. 

Grants and “one-off” capital funding is often available for new trails, trail networks and major improvements, but not so much for ongoing trail management and maintenance. In order to develop sustainable trail destinations, there is a need to develop and implement sustainable governance and funding models for each destination. This may involve consideration of new or alternative funding streams or partnering with others to sustainably manage and maintain the existing and increasing inventory of trails. 


So what is governance and sustainability? 

The Governance Institute of Australia defines governance as: 

“… the system by which an organisation is controlled and operates, and the mechanisms by which it, and its people, are held to account. Ethics, risk management, compliance and administration are all elements of governance.” 

In the trail destination context, it relates to who and how we manage and maintain the trails and infrastructure. 

Sustainability in this context refers to how the new trail destinations can use existing and new or alternative funding streams and resources to manage and maintain the increasing inventory of trails and associated infrastructure. 

Stage two of the eight stage WA Trail Development Process (Trails Development Series, 2019) is to develop a Framework for any trail development that outlines the management model to be used including; 

  • Who is the owner? 
  • Who is the operator? 
  • Who will maintain the trails? 
  • How will visitor use be monitored? 
  • How will trail condition be monitored? 

Stage 8 (Management) of the WA Trail Development Process explores and defines the management model and responsibilities in more detail through the development of a trail management plan. The trail management plan should outline: 

  • Who is responsible for what? 
  • Trail maintenance, 
  • Maintaining the asset database, 
  • Visitor Risk Management, hazard inspection and reporting, 
  • Undertaking visitor monitoring activities. 
  • How will each aspect of trail management be funded? 


Each new trail destination in WA has followed the WA Trail Development Process and a Framework document and Draft Trail Management Plan have been developed. Most of the new destinations are currently in a transition phase from project implementation to ongoing operation and management. This transition has resulted in some hiccups as available management resources are focussed on completing the construction of trails and other infrastructure. Most destinations are now quickly moving to implement the Governance and Sustainability actions identified through the trail development process. 



There are a range of options that may be used for the operation of new trail destinations. Western Australia has looked to other trail destinations around the world and around Australia to see what works, how and why. WA also has some great trail management success stories of its own with the Bibbulmun Track and Munda Biddi Trail Foundations and a range of other trail organisations and volunteer groups such as Kalamunda Collective, Margaret River Off Road Cycling Association, Pemberton Cycling Club and others. These community and volunteer groups provide support, guidance, management, marketing and maintenance for local, regional and national level trail assets. These activities are often undertaken in partnership with the land manager. 

As part of the review of national and international examples of trail governance, DBCA reviewed the work done by TRC Tourism for the governance and sustainability of Warburton Mountain Bike Destination – TRC 2017 (View document in their document archive HERE.

The TRC 2017 report outlined a range of possible governance models that fall into three broad categories that could be considered. 

  1. Public Delivery and operation (e.g. Government builds and operates trails) 
  2. Public Delivery and Community Operation (e.g. Government build trails and a community organisation or other entity operates them)  
  3. Public Delivery and Private Operation (e.g. Government builds trails and a private company or organisation operates them, possibly via a lease)  

The TRC 2017 report looked at all the possible options and found that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and that: 

“….there is no defined set of trail governance and business models that can be prescribed for differing types of trails. While different types of trail governance and business structures have broad advantages and disadvantages, the sustainable management of a trail and its success as a community, tourism and economic resource also depends on:  

  • the circumstances of each trail – such as land tenure, trail development history, management issues and the agencies, landholders and stakeholders involved 
  • the way governance and business structures and associated personnel operate in practice 
  • the operating environment – such as state and local government legislation, policies, planning frameworks and institutional arrangements; community and tourism industry engagement and support; sources of funding and expertise; marketing and promotion arrangements. “

It therefore follows that each destination in WA needs to develop governance and sustainability arrangements that are fit for purpose for that network and for that community. 

TRC 2017 also outlined what they considered the critical factors for successful trail governance and management. These are: 

  • Clear, committed, and skilled governance entity 
  • Effective trail planning 
  • Clear coordination function 
  • People resources dedicated to management 
  • Adequate resources for trail operations 
  • Ongoing funding 
  • Stakeholder and community partnerships 
  • Supportive government environment 
  • Marketing, promotion, and experience development 


Sustainable Business Model 

In addition to having a clear and effective governance model, each trail destination needs a sustainable business or funding model to ensure that resources are available to operate the trails. The sustainable business model may include direct funding/revenue and in-kind labour or support such as through volunteers. 

A range of possible funding/income and support options that may be considered is outlined below. There are likely to be other revenue and or support options. 

Each trail destination in WA needs to develop both a clear and agreed governance framework and sustainable business model.


So, What’s Happening Now? 

For the new trail networks where DBCA is involved, a governance and sustainability model is in development or has been implemented. Some details are shown below. 


A trail management body is being considered that will include state and local government, local community, business representatives and trail user representatives. It is intended that this group will provide input and advice on priorities for improvements and maintenance and will assist in implementing a sustainable business model by developing strategies and sourcing funding for trails and supporting infrastructure. 


The Shire of Nannup is leasing an area of land from DBCA to develop and manage the new trails at Tank 7 and 8 and other proposed trails. The Shire of Nannup will work closely with the community and trail users regarding the ongoing management and maintenance of the trails. The Shire of Nannup is already implementing strategies to assist with funding the ongoing management and maintenance including income from trail services such as shuttles. 


A trail management body is being considered that will include state and local government, local community, business representatives and trail user representatives. It is intended that this group will provide input and advice on priorities for improvements and maintenance and will assist in implementing a sustainable business model by developing strategies and sourcing funding for trails and supporting infrastructure. 

Other destinations and trail networks also have existing arrangements or planning underway 


How can you be involved? 

DBCA is developing an improved trail volunteer program and is looking closely at existing trail maintenance programs to see what works, what could be improved, what training is needed, how volunteers can be better supported and what tools and resources they need. 

New trail maintenance volunteer programs will be rolled out soon, starting in Dwellingup. 

If you would like to be involved in volunteering to help maintain your local or favourite trails, please email 

If you would like to know more about the governance entities being set up for trail destinations or have ideas you would like to share, please email 

If you want to be a supporter of trails you love, you have some options right now. 


Go to Trails WA and donate to become a supporter of trail destinations: 




Also look out for stickers and merchandise at trail destinations and visitor centres.

These provide funds to support trail maintenance. 

Trail Supporter Stickers

Trail Map / Manky

T-Shirts and Waterbottles

 © Trails WA Projects 2022