This section deals predominantly with walking tracks along the coastline. However, some tracks are shared by a variety of user groups and land managers are increasingly recognising the importance of catering for these multiple uses.
Coastal tracks and trails provide access to foreshore areas, linkages between coastal sites and, in some instances, recreational opportunities for various user groups such as mountain-bike riders and horseriders. The design of coastal tracks needs to consider the purpose of the track, the user groups, the local coastal processes and the natural and cultural values of the area.
Careful planning and quality construction by skilled and trained track workers are the keys to success and can greatly reduce the cost and amount of future maintenance. Planning for ongoing maintenance is essential. Before approving new tracks, consider the capacity and resources available to maintain the existing ones.
Tracks cannot be constructed on public land without the authority of the land manager. The land manager may be the local council or DPIPWE (Parks and Wildlife Service). Assessments and approvals may be required to protect natural and cultural values. Land managers should commit to ongoing maintenance and allocate the appropriate resources.
Careful planning and choosing the appropriate site will minimise impacts and future maintenance needs.
- Access ways and tracks through sand dunes should be sited in natural gullies. Avoid creating tracks on dune crests. Unvegetated dunes, cliff tops, wetland edges and potential landslip zones are unstable areas and may be unsuitable.
- Avoid works on or near beaches and foredunes, unless they are required to provide access to the shoreline.
- Avoid or minimise interference with the natural coastal processes and reduce exposure to severe wave action.
- Avoid disturbing significant natural or cultural heritage values.
- Choose already disturbed sites where people want to go (e.g. where people usually cross dunes), wherever possible. This will lead to greater public acceptance and use of these tracks. Aim to reduce the number of access points through dune systems.
- Follow the contours of the land where appropriate. This will often be more cost-effective and have less impact on the landscape than other options.
Boardwalks, Steps, Sand Ladders and Viewing Platforms
This section deals with the installation of hard structures on coastal tracks to provide access to beaches and coastal areas or to protect sensitive coastal values.
Hard access structures such as boardwalks and steps can provide for improved access to coastal areas and enhanced recreational experiences. They can also provide protection for sensitive areas and landscapes whilst allowing visitors access to enjoy these environments.
Hard structures can be made from variety of materials, with new products (such as recycled plastics) being developed all the time. All are expensive to install and must satisfy building approvals to meet Australian Standards and require a high level of ongoing maintenance. Do not consider new structures unless there is the capacity and resources to maintain them. Plan for their replacement in approximately 20 to 25 years and prepare an asset management plan and asset replacement plan for all structures on tracks.
In high-use coastal areas and adjacent coastal facilities, such structures are often necessary to provide access whilst minimising impacts such as destabilisation of dunes.
Special care will be required during construction to prevent and control erosion as sandy shorelines are often unstable and subject to erosion. Structures that extend across the shore must be appropriately designed and placed to minimise damage from salt water and wave action.
Boardwalks are useful for controlling access and protecting highly sensitive or fragile areas. Steps are useful for providing access through foredunes or down steep coastal foreshores. Steps can be completely elevated timber structures or a timber and gravel combination built into the contour of the land. Whilst the installation of boardwalks and steps will involve some disturbance, they minimise ongoing disturbance and erosion due to foot traffic, making them useful in high-use areas.
In areas with high visitor numbers, the boardwalk width should allow for two-way flow and have step runners (guides along the edges of the steps) to discourage walkers from deviating around the steps and causing erosion.
Protect the edges of boardwalks with scrub, jute mesh or similar materials and consider fencing alongside to encourage people to stay on the track.
Sand Ladder (Board-and-Chain)
Sand ladders are better than steps on some steep dune faces (e.g. on eroding beaches). Ladders work best if erosion is caused mainly by walkers or wind rather than waves.
Ensure board-and-chain slats are a suitable distance apart for easy walking (e.g. 150-200mm between 100mm-wide boards). As a general guide, increase the spacing on steeper slopes (e.g. on sand ladders) to make them safer to climb. Refer to the Coastal dune management: a manual of coastal dune management and rehabilitation techniques
(Department of Land and Water Conservation 2001).
Sand ladders on sand-dune faces need to be flexible, so they can adjust (or be adjusted) to the changing dune profile (e.g. after storm waves). Inspect boards regularly to see whether they need lifting or replacing. Sand ladders may not be suitable in high-use areas or where access needs to cater for a broad cross-section of the community. For example, some elderly people find it hard to walk on sand ladders and the rungs can be a trip hazard if the sand does not build up around them.
Sand ladders are suitable in situations where the level of use is causing erosion but is not high enough to warrant a more expensive structure, and in highly dynamic coastal environments where the risk of loss or damage to hard structures is too high to warrant more expensive steps or boardwalks.
For more information on these and other access management methods, please refer to Chapter 13
, Coastal Works Manual.