“Repair Our Own Trails” (Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department)
"It is hoped that through the Trail Maintenance Workshops, the public would have a better understanding about our trail maintenance and management work." Country Parks Officer, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Yeung Fai-fai, Felix said.
He added, "Have you ever imagined after the workshop, the attendees were all sweated, then they began to cherish our nature and would help to promote positive messages? This brought an explosive effect. The greatest satisfaction was being able to connect a group of people. We interacted with each other through the activity and trust was built up. This was very motivating indeed."
Hong Kong abounds with beautiful country parks. The full array of hiking trails of about 500 km in total provides public trail users with convenient access to the countryside to enjoy the pleasure of outing.
As the hiking trails are exposed to rainfall erosion over the years, coupled with the growing popularity of hiking and trail running activities in recent years, there is a rising need for trail repair and maintenance work. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), which is responsible for the construction, management and maintenance of the hiking trails, has been facing a big challenge.
The Department has come up with a win-win solution which allows colleagues to pass down their skills and knowledge, and at the same time promotes public education in protecting and maintaining the hiking trails for their own use.
AFCD generally adopts a “Leave No Trace” principle in the construction and maintenance works of hiking trails. Frontline staff use simple methods to construct the hiking trails according to the terrain, and make use of the on-site natural materials for maintenance works as far as possible.
Yeung Fai-fai, Felix said, "In 2016, a local community group, the “Concern Group on Concretisation of Hong Kong Natural Trails”, raised concerns and debate over the Government’s use of concrete in building walkways in the countryside."
He continued, "In the light of the public concern, AFCD organised activities to communicate with the relevant organisations. We also organised some trail maintenance workshops, hoping that the public and volunteers, through participating in the workshops, would better understand our work in hiking trails management and maintenance."
The scheme has evolved from knowledge sharing communication, and public forums, to educating the public on the concepts of trail maintenance. Volunteers are also invited
to participate in the on-site construction and repair works. These activities enabled the public to understand the cause of soil erosion on the hiking trails, and to learn the maintenance method.
The Country Parks Trail Maintenance Team of AFCD mobilised around 500 volunteers to participate in the trail maintenance workshops. Under the supervision of AFCD’s technicians, the volunteers rolled up their sleeves to repair the hiking trails. They assisted AFCD to continuously improve the trail facilities and to promote the spirit of “Repair Our Own Trails”.
Volunteer Ngan Chung-man said, "I joined the Trailwalker previously, and when I was walking on the trails, I was not aware that they needed to be maintained. Like many Hong Kong people, I used to take things for granted. I realised afterwards that it was the effort of a team of people working on trail maintenance, which allowed us to enjoy the beautiful hiking trails."
Senior Field Officer, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Chan Ka-lai, Carrie said, "The volunteers showed much appreciation for our effort after seeing the hard work we put in. Some of them told us, after helping in the maintenance work, that they are willing to jointly protect and conserve the hiking trails and will use them with care. I also note that there are lots of passionate trail users in Hong Kong. No matter how tired they are, they are willing to help repair the hiking trails on weekend holidays. We are truly touched by them."
Through public engagement, the scheme enabled the trail users to experience trail maintenance work, and made them understand the importance of trail conservation. In the long run, the scheme aims at nurturing more volunteers to take part in the sustainable conservation work of hiking trails.
Senior Field Assistant, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Lee Ma-fat said, "The volunteers treasure the hiking trails very much, so they instantly grasped what we taught them. There is a very large group of volunteers and they are highly motivated. We have the skills to carry out the construction and maintenance work, yet the biggest challenge lies in the transportation of materials, because that requires a lot of physical energy and manpower. At the moment, we have sufficient manpower drawn from a large pool of volunteers, and they are doing areally great job."
Volunteer Siu Hing wo said, "Everytime I work as a volunteer, I have some reflections on nature. What is the relationship between human beings and nature? Are we the destroyer, the manager, or the protector of nature?"
Yeung Fai-fai, Felix said, "When we communicate with the volunteers, we find that they are getting to understand our work better and recognise the value of our work. This has established a foundation of the trust between us and the volunteers. We anticipate to train more volunteers, and to build up a workforce in the long run, so as to work together to manage the hiking trails and conserve our natural resources."
The scheme has been running for three years, and maintenance work involving 550m of trails was completed. The Green Earth, a local environmental organisation, has
applied for funding from the Environment and Conservation Fund.
Besides, some environmental organisations and uniformed groups, which also agree with the purpose of the scheme, are exploring ways for long term collaboration with AFCD.
(For more details, please visit Sevice Excellence Website)