Sun, Jul 20, 2003 - Page 17 News List

Taking the high road

A 50-day trek over Taiwan's central mountain ranges is intended to help establish a national trail network

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

In explaining how he devised his route along the length of Taiwan, Wu referred to old maps, mostly produced by the Japanese colonial government, that provide details of an intricate network of roads reaching deep into the foothills of Taiwan's central mountains. It has been Wu's work over the last few years to sort out these trails, finding a way that links Aboriginal hunting trials, old lumbermen's access roads, and porter routes of the Ching dynasty. "I have walked 70 to 80 percent of the route myself," Wu said.

For Wu, and many others who are participating in the current event, what is at stake is not so much health and fitness, but a close appreciation of the land they live in.

"Most of us are very ignorant about Taiwan," Wu said, adding this was what got him involved in exploring and recording these lesser-known trails, a labor of love he has been involved with for over 10 years. On this trip, he will be taking staff to record the trip on film.

Making a point

While many of the people participating in this expedition are drawn from people already actively engaged in outdoors activities, the Forestry Bureau hopes that the publicity generated from this massive walk will raise awareness among the public and government officials. Sun River, which has already published a series of the major mountaineering trails, is set to release a set of maps covering many of the trails that make up the current cross-island trek.

"It is important to get the information out there," Wu said, "But unfortunately, material like this does not get much shelf space in book shops."

To remedy this, the Forestry Bureau is also planning to release a series of information booklets on seven trails.

"This will be a first step so we can see how the public responds," Weng said. "It is a great opportunity for those who hope to see Taiwan's mountains better appreciated, as between NT$2,500 million to NT$3,000 million has been earmarked for trail development in the government's Challenge 2008 national development program. An island-wide trails network will not only make it easier for people to become involved in trekking, but also take some of the pressure off high-profile trails such as Yushan."

For Wu, the current project comes none too soon. This is a chance for people actively involved in trekking to provide input on the development of trails, Wu said. The long-overdue need for comprehensive guidelines for trail development are currently being set up by the Forestry Bureau and this will, hopefully, avoid further erosions of the trails due to either neglect or excessive zeal.

For some government bodies, trail maintenance is about pouring concrete, Wu said. "With an activity like this one, we can at least prevent them from covering any more trails with concrete. Getting them to remove concrete already poured might be rather more difficult."

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