Paddy Dillon: Where Now for the World’s Trails?
Our trails are strapped for cash, with little or nothing in the kitty for ongoing maintenance – but we’re not alone, as delegates to the World Trail Conference discovered on the South Korean island of Jeju. Funding issues were high on the agenda, and while many of the world’s trails enjoyed government support in the past, it is clearly time to look elsewhere for cash.
“Particularly prevalent among western trails was the reduced funding, and how to attract private sector investment,” he said. “The Appalachian Trail and Bruce Trail are both run by not-for-profit membership organisations with little direct exchequer funding. Would this model work in the UK?”
For the time being, East Asian trails are booming, and on the island of Jeju the recently-established, easy-going Jeju Olle Trail attracts increasing numbers of trekkers. Riding on the back of the World Trail Conference, the Jeju Olle Walking Festival brought thousands more walkers onto the trail over four days. Television crews from Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and China filmed long lines of walkers whose passion and enthusiasm was awe-inspiring.
The Jeju Olle Trail has forged links with trails in Canada and Switzerland, as well as with Britain’s Cotswold Way. Similar ‘Friendship Trails’ will no doubt appear around the world in due course.
Clearly, the whole walking scene in East Asia is growing with considerable vigour, and it may be that we in the West will be looking more and more at how they develop and manage their trails and events. For the time being, the World Trail Conference closed by launching the World Trail Network, aiming to keep the world’s trail managers in touch with each other, sharing ideas and expertise.
Find out more
World Trail Network: www.worldtrail.org
Jeju Olle Trail: www.jejuolle.org
Jeju Olle Walking Festival: www.ollewalking.co.kr
Cultural entertainment forms part of the Jeju Olle Walking Festival.
Tim Lidstone-Scott at the launch of the Cotswold Way / Jeju Olle Friendship Trail.
One step at a time – onwards and upwards on the Jeju Olle Trail.
The Jeju Olle Trail is designed for easy-going long-distance strollers.