Back in time – Part 2

Back in time – Part 2

Walkers who participated in the introductory walk in September 1999 from Murray Bridge to Monarto commented that they were surprised at the local area and what could be seen in an area many thought would have little attractive features. Rocky Gully Gorge, the uniqueness of a trail where exotic animals such as giraffe and rare Mongolian Wild Horses could be seen as they walked the boundary of the Monarto Zoo and the use of traffic free attractive road reserves.

The success of the day convinced a small but enthusiastic group of volunteers and the Murray Bridge Council who sponsored the introductory walk, that the demand for a walking trail on the eastern side of the Mt Lofty Ranges was warranted. At this time there was interest only from walkers so the decision was taken to design and build the trail solely for walkers.

Detailed route planning for the first stage then commenced. It was planned to build stage 1 to Mount Beevor, a distance of 55 kilometers from Murray Bridge, name it the Federation Trail to celebrate the Centenary of the Federation of Australia by opening the first section in 2001.

An incorporated body was formed and it was decided to call the group South Australian Recreation Trails Incorporated (SARTI) with the view that the group could become involved in other trail projects in the future, something that is now increasingly coming into fruition. (“New Trails Proposed” in this issue of Footsteps.)

Using a grant from the Office for Recreation, Sport & Racing and the Murray Bridge Council, under the guidance of Terry Lavender using his years of experience
planning and building the Heysen Trail, volunteers, mainly locals, became more proficient in the processes required to design and construct a walking trail.
Construction of the early sections wouldn’t have happened without large groups of volunteers, some travelling considerable distances to spend the day helping with its construction. On one occasion it took seven people over two hours hacking into rock to install one stile over a fence at Rockleigh. This area has a very appropriate name as this group found out the hard way. Local service clubs were of great assistance with the Murray Bridge Apex club winning a national community award for their work on the trail. To achieve the aim of building a 55 km trail with a small budget, trail markers consisted of a yellow aluminum strip with a point at one end and “FT” printed on a decal attached to the aluminum stip. The makers were attached to fence posts and star droppers. Some of these early markers can still be seen along some sections.

Diggers Rest Spur Trail - Showing Old design Stile and LF Signage
Diggers Rest Spur Trail – Showing old design Stile and LF Signage

With many setbacks, negotiations with land owners, many initially wary of people walking across the countryside near their properties, combined with the
inexperience of the volunteer group meant the plan of opening the first section in 2001 was unachievable.

Ramms Rd to Bondleigh Rd
Ramms Rd to Bondleigh Rd

On Sunday 7th April 2002 the first marked section from Murray Bridge too Mount Beevor was officially opened by Murray Bridge Mayor, Alan Arbon at Sturt Reserve on the banks of the River Murray in conjunction with the opening of the 2002 Walking Season. A map for the first section and supported by advertising was also released on the day. The SARTI Board was also successful in obtaining a grant from the SA Tourism Commission to produce a color brochure to distribute to Tourist outlets, also launched at the opening. The third updated of this brochure is being used today.

The Federation Trail was no longer just a dream of some but a reality. The hard work however had just begun and almost 15 years from the first walk in 1999, work still continues with some of the original volunteers still involved.

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