By Theresa Goodwin
People who are indiscriminately removing flag markers placed along nature trails at historic Wallings Reservoir are said to be putting themselves and fellow hikers’ lives at risk.
Members of the Wallings Nature Reserve group – which is overseeing the rehabilitation of the popular tourist site – have issued an impassioned appeal to the public to stop the practice “immediately”.
“The flags are used as markers; they are designed in such a way that it caters to persons who are unable to read but have knowledge of colours, signs and numbers,” executive director Refica Attwood told Observer on Wednesday.
She explained that the flags are placed in specific locations to enable faster rescue in the event someone gets lost.
“If they are moved, that leaves the Wallings team blind and we cannot offer any assistance in cases of emergency.”
The flags are placed along each trail and all bear the group’s logo, a number for emergency purposes and the name of the trail. Each trail has its own colour which the team says speeds up rescue times.
In case of an emergency, hikers can call 911, tell responders the colour of the flag on that particular trail, the name of the trail and the number on the last flag they passed.
Attwood said her team had recently been forced to replace a number of flags that had been deliberately removed.
She is also concerned that more people are using the trails without first informing the team who are at the John Hughes site daily.
Attwood said someone was recently injured while on the Rendezvous Bay trail and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were called to help.
Attwood said if her team had been notified prior, they could have offer assistance to the injured person and also provided guidance to the EMS responders.
“The accident happened at flag 13. Had the team been informed it would have taken two hours maximum to get that person out. That area requires extraction with the use of an animal and we have animals that are trained specifically to go down on the trail,” she explained.
“People are here every day; just indicate to them how many people are there and what trail you are using, so if something happens we have some information,” Attwood urged.
Meanwhile, one former avid hiker is commending the group for installing the flags and marking the trails.
Katja Geisler told Observer if this had been done years ago, it would have made the job easier for responders who came to her rescue after she suffered a serious injury on the Rendezvous Bay trail in 2017.
Geisler was hiking with friends when she broke her leg in several places. She had to be rescued by officers from All Saints Police Station along with EMS personnel after fellow hikers trekked back to get help for her. Geisler added that the injury had prevented her from enjoying hiking since.