New study reveals why people jump barriers to go off-trail in Blue Mountains National Park

Emergency personnel at Lincolns Rock in Wentworth Falls, rescuing a young man who fell off the edge in January last year..
Emergency personnel at Lincolns Rock in Wentworth Falls, rescuing a young man who fell off the edge in January last year..

Selfies, Instagram, fear of missing out: All reasons why bushwalkers jump fences and teeter on cliff edges for photo ops in the Blue Mountains National Park, according to a recent study.

Perth academic, Dr Edmund Goh, surveyed 325 visitors to the park to find out why they ignored warning signs and ventured off-trail.

He learnt that most people were copy cats - if they saw someone already off-trail, particularly one of their friends, they were more likely to join them.

"They rationalised their own behaviour by following others," Dr Goh said. "If others can do it, everything should be alright.

"There is also an element of FOMO... Other visitors are climbing the fence at Sublime Point to sit on the cliff edge to take awesome selfies. I don't want to miss out on this Instagram moment."

Dr Goh, who is deputy director of the Markets and Services Research Centre at Edith Cowan University, found other reasons for going off-trail included getting a closer view of nature or finding a short cut.

Researcher Dr Edmund Goh surveyed visitors to the Blue Mountains National Park.

Researcher Dr Edmund Goh surveyed visitors to the Blue Mountains National Park.

Some had a more practical reason: To find a quiet spot to relieve themselves.

And a lack of signage influenced off-trail behaviour.

"This suggests that visitors sensed the need for clear and available signage as an information source and bearings to help them stay on the designated trail."

The survey found that people with strong pro-environment views didn't seem concerned about going off-trail and didn't see it as disrespecting those values.

"Perhaps people behaved differently when they are out of their home environment," Dr Goh said. "For example, you might be sorting your household waste in proper recycle bins but couldn't care less when you are in the national park and simply throw your plastic bottle over the cliff."

Dr Goh said his paper, Walking Off-trail in National Parks: Monkey see, Monkey do (published in Leisure Sciences), could help park managers. Suggestions included emphasising the benefits of staying on a trail rather than the disadvantages of going off-trail; considering restrictions to control numbers on trails; and stronger fines/penalties for off-trail walking.

A spokeswoman for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service said many fire-affected areas remain closed for safety reasons.

"However, some people are bending the rules and entering closed areas. When you're in a national park, stay safe by obeying signs, keeping out of closed areas and listening to any staff directives."

And stay on track, she said.

"Fences and barriers are installed to help keep people safe - leaving a track, or jumping a fence or barrier, exposes you to what could be life-threatening risk."