Economic growth and rising incomes have given citizens more time to pursue recreation and leisure activities. Since mountain forests provide many outstanding opportunities for outdoors recreation, the Bureau devoted great effort to expanding and maintaining existing forest recreation area facilities, and has also promoted nature education and taken steps toward creating an integrated national trail system. Taking the trail system as a backbone, the Bureau seeks to connect Taiwan's mountain tourist areas and sightseeing spots, and will rely on sound hardware and software facilities, plus added nature education, to ensure that forest resources are used fully to provide the public with a superior recreational environment.
Establishing Forest Recreation Areas
The Bureau has been establishing forest recreation area since 1965. Taiwan's current forest recreation areas include Taipingshan, Dongyanshan, Neidong, Manyueyuan and Guanwu in northern Taiwan; Dasyueshan, Basianshan, Hehuanshan, Wuling and Aowanda in central Taiwan; Alishan, Tengjhih, Shuangliou and Kenting in southern Taiwan; and Jhihben, Siangyang, Chihnan and Fuyuan in eastern Taiwan. Taiwan's 18 forest recreation areas are visited more than 3.5 million person-times each year.
The Bureau has consistently emphasized travel safety maintenance work in forest recreation areas. Apart from continuing to renovate and maintain facilities, the Bureau also holds regular emergency rescue training sessions and exercises, and conducts fire safety, sanitation, and safety inspections. Forest recreation area personnel receive annual service etiquette and service quality training. Till 2014, 18 national forest recreation areas have passed the international service quality certification of ISO9001. Among them, the accommodation in Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area, Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area, Hehuanshan National Forest Recreation Area has also passed the ISO14001 United Kingdom’s UKAS certification, which becomes a new milestone for the improvement of service quality in forest recreation areas and provides visitors with better recreational services.
In response to public demands for a diversity of outdoor leisure activities, the Forestry Bureau is planning a series of forest tours, in partnership with communities and industries neighbouring the National Forest Recreation Areas. The tours will attract visitors with themed activities based on the natural and cultural resources of the Recreation Areas. With these tours the Forest Bureau hopes to promote both environmental awareness and tourism. The Bureau is using print, electronic and broadcast media to conduct thematic marketing activities and strengthen the environmental education functions of forest recreation areas. Citizens have heard the message and are eager to personally experience forest ecotourism.
In order to improve service quality at dining and lodging facilities in forest recreation areas, the Bureau has encourage private investors to build and operate for-profit food and lodging service facilities within forest recreation areas. These facilities, which may not destroy distinctive features, foster the development of recreational resources, ease the government's fiscal burden, and provide friendly, enthusiastic, and convenient travel services. Private operators currently manage the Kenting Lodge in the Kenting Forest Recreation Area and facilities in the Fuyuan Forest Recreation Area, Basianshan Forest Recreation Area.
Development of a National Trail System
The Council for Economic Planning and Development held the "National Hiking Trail Network Establishment Discussion Conference" in January 2001; this conference resolved to request this Bureau to coordinate actions by relevant agencies, and plan the integrated development of a national trail system. Accordingly, the "National Trail System Project" was added to the National Development Plan in 2002. This project calls for the integration of existing trails and the development of new trail systems reflecting local environmental resources and features. Responding to the public campaign to build "1,000km of natural walking paths around Taiwan, return to inner values," the Executive Yuan expanded efforts to develop a national trail system in 2006. The Bureau hopes to rely on up-to-date hardware and software, plus an abundance of attractive routes, to give the trail system new appeal.
A well-designed trail system incorporate living circles, linking routes, transfer points, access roads, and the trail itself. It must also possess natural, cultural, and scenery resources and features representative of the country's environmental assets. Trails can be built to connect tourist areas and scenery belts. The entire trail system should be able to accommodate approximately 3.6 million visitors annually, and ping greater prosperity to mountain villages. 14 national trail systems had been completed, blueprints had been developed for 14 regional trail systems, trail designs and interpretive sign designs guide had been completed, maps, pictures, and interpretive handbooks had been printed, and a national trail guide website had been established, and subsidized develop mountaineering information App to provide the public with relevant hiking and travel information. The Bureau performs annual trail repair and maintenance, and is supporting the Leave No Trace (LNT) campaign by holding seminars, Working Holiday of Eco-craft Trail and trail adoption activities aimed at encouraging public participation. The Bureau seeks to maintain the ecological environment, promote integration of communities and local areas, and rely on sound facilities, plentiful ecotourism routes, and environmental education content to create a wide variety of experiences, achieve a sustainable of national trail system, and thereby maximize forest benefits and functions.
Establishment of Natural Education Centers
Responding to society's demand for superior outdoors recreation places, the Bureau has striven to establish environmental education centers with strong recreation and education functions in order to increase citizens' conservation awareness and participation. By creating many opportunities for fun learning in a forest environment, the Bureau is helping the public understand and appreciate nature in a close setting, and hopes that citizens will embrace forest conservation while learning and enjoying themselves. With enough education, citizens will be ready to take action to protect the environment and achieve the goals of sustainable management of nature‘s resources.
Nature education centers possess educational, research, conservation, cultural, and recreational functions. This Bureau is using interpretive and experiential activities developed in the past in existing forest recreation areas and forestry culture parks to strengthen the training of personnel manpower, establish classes tied in to in-school instruction, and systematically provide environmental learning and hands-on experience classes. A first nature education center was established at Dongyanshan on June 30, 2007, and the Bureau plans to establish further nature education centers at the Luodong Forestry Culture Park and the Basianshan, Aowanda, Chihnan, Shuangliou, Jhihben, and Chukou areas. When these nature education centers have been established, Taiwan will have an extensive nature learning network that can provide learning opportunities 100,000 person-times annually. This will ping about a full-scale improvement in the capacity and quality of Taiwan‘s environmental education system, and will help induce agencies and private organizations engaged in environmental education to work together to build a superior nature education system where "people can learn from nature while having fun."
Management of the WuIai Log Cart and Alishan Forest Railway
Wulai Log Cart
The Wulai scenic train was originally handcars used for transporting timber; however, to better serve the growing tourist population visiting the Wulai Waterfall it was opened to the public in 1963. In the beginning, handcars carrying tourists were pushed manually by workers. In 1974, diesel engine locomotives replaced human pushers in order to cope with the growing number of visitors. Later in 1987 a tunnel was bored at the Waterfall Station which replaced the original turntable roundhouse and is still in use today.
The Wulai log cart runs from Wulai to the waterfall and has a length of 1.6 kilometers. It operates daily in both directions from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The log cart departs whenever passengers arrive the station. The Bureau is continuing to improve the log cart, tracks, and software, strengthen the implementation of standard operating procedures by service personnel, and regularly hold in-service training in an effort to improve service quality and maintain safety.
Alishan Forest Railway
The Alishan Forest Railway operates between Chiayi Station at an elevation of 30 meters and Alishan Station at an elevation of 2,216 meters. The railway has a total length of 71.34 kilometers; a one-way trip takes approximately 3.5 hours. The narrow-gauge track has a width of 762 mm. The minimum curve radius is 40 meters, and the highest gradient is 6.25%. The major features of this railway include switchback stations, a spiral route up the mountain, and Z-shaped switchbacks (this section is known as "the train runs into a wall") . The extraordinary scenery along the way is famous in Taiwan and around the world. The railway is a major international tourist attraction, and is also a cultural and historical asset that played an important role in Taiwan's development.
Due to special railroad conditions in mountainous regions, the train encounters numerous pidges as well as tunnels, and it needs to negotiate decreasing-radius corners and steep slopes along the way. In order to increase railway safety, the Forestry Bureau works hard constantly to improve the infrastructure and the installations of Alishan Forest Railway including tunnels, pidges, roadbeds, slopes, and drainages. Old locomotives have been replaced with new ones and train cars have also undergone extensive refurbishments recently. Relevant regulations are revised for the maintenance of operational and engineering installations so as to ensure visitor safety and raise service quality. Furthermore, the Bureau makes sure this goal is met by providing administrative, operational, and maintenance personnel with scientific training courses to increase the overall competence and efficiency of the railway system's operation and maintenance.