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History of Willunga Basin Trail

The journey from concept to establishment has taken many years and only made possible by the dedication of the teams of volunteers, the landowners (government & private) and the local community.

Birth of an idea

2009 Friends of Willunga Basin (FOWB), a local group concerned with the future development of the Basin and its preservation as a rural area, receives a letter from Kevin Hutton, Chair of Aldinga Bay Residents Association, asking for clarification of the term ‘Willunga Basin’.

2009-2011 FOWB committee thought that a walk around the Basin would define its boundaries. A start was made on exploring the Basin. Initially seen as an activity for members it was decided it would have wider community appeal. Meetings were held with the City of Onkaparinga - Mayor, Lorraine Rosenberg, CEO, Jeff Tate, Council Officers – and with walking organisations, to discuss the possibility of a trail. It was envisaged that any trail would be established by the City of Onkaparinga.

November 2011 A small group starts exploratory walks to find a possible route.

November 2012 A proposal is put to City of Onkaparinga putting the case for a trail and submitting the possible route, approx. 110km and in several sections. The trail was to showcase the beauty of the Willunga Basin, provide healthy recreation, promote tourism, and support the protection of the Willunga Basin as a rural area.  Education about natural areas, the environment and environmental work, the Aboriginal and European heritage, were seen as key points.

May 2013    A letter from the new CEO of the City of Onkaparinga states that the trail idea has merit, but it is not in the Recreational Trails Network Strategy which is due for review. Council undertakes to consider the proposed route when disposing of unmade road reserves. These road reserves are a major part of the route of the trail and are public land in the care and control of Council.

2013 - 2015    The small group of walkers increases steadily and continue to walk in the Basin and surrounding areas. Many of the walkers are interested in the idea of a trail. Discussion and research lead to the realisation that any trail installed by the City of Onkaparinga would take many years, estimated at 27, given the funds set aside for trails and the number of proposals on the books already. There was also awareness that Council trails were bituminised shared-use trails and that walkers would prefer a natural surface trail.

November 2014    The concept of a trail travelling through the Onkaparinga River National Park is brought to the attention of the Minister for Environment and Water and project officer Kain Gardiner at a stakeholder meeting regarding funding for trails in the Onkaparinga River National Park. It is called Willunga 100 by Kain Gardiner.

Birth of a Community Group

September 2015   Contact is made with Chris Bushell, Chairperson of South Australian Recreational Trails Inc, the body who are putting in the Lavender Trail. He suggests that an incorporated community body could seek funding and establish the trail. He is guest speaker at the FOWB AGM and explains the possible process.

October 2015    Inaugural meeting of Basin Trail Action Group (BTAG) (subcommittee of FOWB) is held to consider how to proceed. Costing and timelines are considered.

 February 2016   A deputation is made to the Council in chamber by Chris Davies representing BTAG. He suggests that a trail of great advantage to the area could be established by a community group and seeks its inclusion in the upcoming Trails and Cycling Strategic Management Plan (TCSMP). The response from Councillors is very supportive of the idea and a motion is passed including it in the draft TCSMP.

March 2016    The BTAG group becomes incorporated as Willunga Basin Trail Inc (WBT Inc), forms a committee, opens a bank account, and recruits members many of whom are experienced bushwalkers.

Mapping & Planning

2016 to 2018   While walks continue and the walkers become a walking group, work starts on preparation to be ready to apply for funding to establish the trail. Way pointing of the route is undertaken, landholders other than City of Onkaparinga - Parks SA, Forestry, Field Naturalists SA and a few private landowners, are approached. The aim is to have the trail as much as possible on public land. Committee members present the concept to community groups such as Friends of Aldinga Scrub, Friends of Onkaparinga Park, Trees for Life. Planning is started and sources of funding considered. Detailing costing including estimation of infrastructure required is undertaken.

June 2017    After public consultation where it received overwhelming support, the Willunga Basin Trail is accepted into the Trails and Cycling Management Plan, a necessary step in applying for funding.

July 2017   Meeting at the Hub in Willunga between Council officers and WBT Inc is held to consider how to proceed. It was accepted that the trail be on natural surface as much as possible and that it be a walking trail. A pilot project on Edwards URR was agreed upon. In Spring 2017 olives were cleared by council contractors to make way for the trail through there.


April 2018   After receiving landholder consents, Walking SA and City of Onkaparinga support, WBT Inc applied to the Office of Recreation Sport and Racing for funds of $78,000 for infrastructure costs to install a 120 km trail in the Willunga Basin.

October 2018    Funds are granted and received in December.

February 2019   After ordering materials, including specially designed infrastructure and signage, work starts on trail installation.

September 2019    The Willunga Basin Trail project is formally launched at a gathering on Edwards Unmade Road Reserve by Corey Wingard, Minister for Recreation Sport and Racing.  Over 70 attend.  The City of Onkaparinga, WBT Inc’s major partner, is represented.

February 2019 to April 2022    Work Sessions are held 3 times a week to install the trail. Volunteers register and are trained both on the job and at training sessions in bushcare, chemical handling, trail building, first aid and brush cutting. Teams vary from 4 to 15 with 8 as the average. Volunteers come from every part of the Willunga Basin and the nearby southern suburbs. Most are also keen walkers.


October 2020    A grant is applied for and received from Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board to the sum of $16,183 for ‘Building capacity for ongoing trail maintenance’; this enables the purchase of a trailer, tools, and funds training courses. The trailer makes the work on the trail much easier.  Maintenance is already part of the work undertaken by volunteers. Bush care work and plantings to preserve and enhance the natural areas through which the trail passes, has been one of the aims of WBT Inc since the beginning. This work is greatly assisted by the City of Onkaparinga, native vegetation team.

October 2021   The major grant from ORSR is acquitted; 120km of trail has been established. Work continues as the route is now 130 km long and a few difficult parts remain where negotiations with adjacent landowners are unresolved.

Open to Everyone

April 2022    The trail is declared completed and opened at the Walking SA Hiking Expo at Belair, by Susan Close, Minister for Environment and Water.

There is much interest and support from the local community and also from the South Australian walking community, and Walking SA. The Friends of the Heysen Trail have been walking parts for some years but are now able to include Willunga Basin Trail in its completed form in their walks program.

April 2022 to July 2022    The Willunga Basin Trail walking group walks the entire trail over 11 weeks, section by section. 

Building the Trail Photos

This collection of photographs was taken by fellow volunteers to record the building of the Trail.