Adelaide—If you ask Bushwalkers of the South Australian German Association (SAGA) what the sentiment is they particularly harbor when walking along the Heysen Trail, it is: "Safety first!" Perhaps small wonder, then, that walking volunteers of the SAGA can often be seen beavering away maintaining or re-installing Heysen routes. The hiking group was founded in 1990 and walked the entire Heysen Trail in stages between 1998 and 2010. For more than 20 years now, the hiking group has been immersed in maintaining sections of the Heysen for the general public. So much so that in South Australia the Bushwalkers of the SAGA have gained a solid reputation as "bridge builders". In Sections 3 and 4 of the Heysen, the hiking group regularly clears the Trail and maintains the crossings and wooden bridges constructed by SAGA-volunteers. In this spirit, the Bushwalkers also carefully record their efforts for ForestrySA. For example, it takes seven volunteers up to one and a half days just to renovate one footbridge, as the group’s hiking guide Hermann Schmidt acknowledges.
Hiking the Heysen’s 1,200 kilometres from Cape Jervis in the south to Parachilna Gorge between Blinman and the township of Parachilna in the north clearly is no picnic. Walking the Trail with sections of remote tracks and improvised cuttings can be pretty wearying. Fortunately, the Friends have been keeping the routes safe and accessible since 1986 so as to keep the strain of walking the Trail to a minimum. It is a multitude of inspirited volunteers, including since 1999 the Bushwalkers of the SAGA, that is making all of this happen.
The Bushwalkers were established in 1990 by members of the "Süd-Australischer Allgemeiner Deutscher Verein (SAADV)", the predecessor of SAGA, to run a selection of ⭲ leisure time hikes. On 20th January 1991, the Bushwalkers completed their first 13 kilometre hike under the guidance of Wilf Rueweler with 25 enthusiasts along the Torrens River. In 1998, hiking guide Hermann Schmidt encouraged the Bushwalkers to set themselves the ambitious goal of hiking the Heysen Trail end-to-end. Hermann Schmidt and his deputy Fred De Ceukelaire meticulously planned each of the stages of the Trail, finally reaching the walking group’s goal in 2010 in Bundaleer where 26 enthusiasts celebrated cheerfully their crossing of the finishing line.
Maintenance work is labour-intensive
Ten years earlier, in October 1999, the Bushwalkers, in coordination with FoHT and Walking S.A., had assumed responsibility for maintaining a 20 kilometre section of the Heysen south-east of Myponga. In addition to the labour-intensive work of ensuring accessibility, the hiking group gradually constructed a number of small and big footbridges along that Trail section alias Section 4. To be precise, the construction work included a 9 metre wooden walkway across Spring Creek, a 15 metre wooden bridge across Emerald Creek, and a 12 metre timber and steel bridge across Swampy Creek. In 2013, the Bushwalkers also assumed responsibility for Section 3 of the Heysen.
Maintaining, repairing, and improving Trail sections involves installing or moving direction posts, building and mending step over stiles, replacing logos, trimming branches, bushes and undergrowth, constructing footbridges, crossings and boardwalks, removing barriers and debris from deteriorating buildings and disposing of litter scattered carelessly.
This year, it took the Bushwalkers Hermann Schmidt, Werner Bartjes, Ulli Henn, Arnulf Mollenhauer, Lothar Ortloff as well as Rainer and Elke Pottel a full week to carry out the repair work in Sections 3 and 4. This way, the crossings got restored, and the footbridges got repaired and cleared of dense scrub and wild growth before getting a complete repaint. The Bushwalkers have been keeping a log for ⭱ ForestrySA for many years now, so hiking guide Hermann Schmidt can confirm: "It takes seven hiking volunteers round about 15 hours to re-install each of the footbridges." The Bushwalkers of the SAGA agree that the safety gained through the work of the walking volunteers is well worth it. ✻
Print: Trailwalker Magazine, Issue 164, December 2022, p. 9, column "Maintenance Report" [116+13/3/3/4].
On-line: ⭱ E-Paper Trailwalker Magazine, Thursday, 1 December 2022. Retrieved: New Year’s Day, 1 January 2023.