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Implementation of Taroko Rockfall Response Program

I. Origin and basis

  • Origin
    Taroko Gorge is internationally renowned for its beautiful scenery. In 2021, the National Park received over 2.44 million visitors. The occurrence of rockfalls within Taroko National Park poses a significant safety hazard for visitors, especially the section between the entrance of Taroko National Park and Tianxiang, where the overwhelming majority of visitors frequent.
  • Basis
    When Chien Tai-lang - former Vice Minister of the Interior - inspected Taroko National Park under the instructions of the National Defense Group on April 9, 2012, he pointed out that rockfalls put visitors at risk and said that the problem needed to be urgently resolved. He stated that the Tunnel of Nine Turns (Jiuqudong) should be prioritized and instructed Taroko National Park Headquarters to promptly submit a proposal to Executive Yuan. Furthermore, on June 28, 2014, Premier Chiang Yi-hua expressed concern about handling "rockfall protection" during an inspection of Taroko National Park. Executive Yuan approved implementing a mid-term plan for Taroko National Park on June 9, 2015. The Taroko Gorge Rockfall Response Program was implemented as part of the 2016-2018 National Park Plan and had a budget of NT$443.31 million. The medium-term plan from 2020 to 2023 will also continue to strengthen related projects for improving the overall safety of recreation.

II. Area Covered and Responsibilities within Plan

  • The areas included in the main plan cover the rock faces on both sides of the road. The area extends along the most frequently visited section of the Central Cross-Island Highway, Taroko - Tianxiang (highway marker between 167.4 km to 184.5 km, 17.1 kilometers in total). Taroko National Park Headquarters is responsible for managing scenic sites, and the Highway unit is responsible for the highway. 

III. Program Strategy

  • This program intends Intended to raise the level of service quality and visitor safety. The contents of the program plan are summarized below:
  • Daily operational management
    • An emergency rescue system, Standard Operating Procedures, disaster emergency response, emergency rescue plans, etc. have all been established; safety education and advocacy have been enhanced, and safety helmets provided as primary protection. The maximum insurance benefit per person of the National Park Accident Liability Insurance's additional rockfall insurance was increased to NT$5 million in August, 2014.
  • Early warning environmental monitoring
    • Taroko National Park Headquarters has established a routine patrol monitoring mechanism. For example, Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou) Trail is patrolled daily. These findings are used as the basis for deciding whether the trail is open or closed. Directions for Closure of Leisure Facilities and Areas of Taroko National Park Headquarters Administration have also been formulated as the basis for management in the event of earthquakes, typhoons, or torrential rain.
    • Geological and hydrological surveys have been carried out in the Tunnel of Nine Turns (Jiuqudong), Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou), Eternal Spring Shrine (Changchun Shrine) areas and other areas, related maps collected and LiDar (Light Detection and Ranging), aerial photography and other technology are used for analysis, assessment, and surveying to further protect against disaster-causing factors..
  • Taroko Gorge Rockfall Response Program Plan
    • A:
      Measures for handling visitor safety include monitoring rockfalls, bridge, tunnel, and slope destabilization, maintenance/service of facilities, and removing loose rocks at important scenic spots to reduce danger.
    • B:
      Implement the Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail (Jiuqudong), Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou) Trail, and the Changchun Shrine areas' rockfall protection projects are completed.(1) Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail: The Tunnel of Nine Turns (Jiuqudong) Scenic Tunnel and trail landscape rockfall protection project was set for completion in 2016; however, due to financial difficulties encountered by the sub-contractor, the contract was terminated. Work was resumed after a midway settlement and re-awarding of the contract resulting in a delayed completion time. The rockfall protection construction work was completed, and 700 meters of Tunnel of Nine Turns (Jiuqudong) Trail's western section was reopened on June 24, 2019.(2) Swallow Grotto Trail (Yanzikou Trail): The rockfall protection project of Yanzikou Trail (Stage 1) was completed in 2015. The second stage was completed in 2017. The third stage was completed in early 2019, and the fourth stage was completed in 2020. This project has effectively improved the recreational safety at Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou) Trail.(3) Changchun Shrine Safety Protection Project; The Changchun Shrine Trail (Eternal Spring Shrine Trail) Rockfall Protection Project completed LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and aerial photography surveys in 2016. The first stage of the project was completed in 2017. The second stage of the project was completed at the end of 2019. The third stage of the project was completed in 2021, effectively improving the recreational safety in the Changchun Shrine area.
    • C:
      Visitor safety and dispersal.  (1) Continuing to implement the Xiaozhongheng (Sub-Zhongheng) (Small Central Cross-Island Highway) Plan to optimize the facilities in the Taroko-Shakadang-Changchun Shrine area. The renovation project "Our Environment," Recreational Information Exhibition Hall, and Taroko Visitor Center was completed by the end of 2014. Xiaozhuilu Trail, which connects Taroko Terrace and Shakadang trail, opened on November 2, 2015. A temporary off-road parking lot was built near the Xiagu Bridge on the Central Cross-Island Highway, which was opened on January 13, 2016. The trail connecting the Taroko Terrace and the large water pipeline of Liwu Hydropower Plant bound for Dali and Datong Trail and Dekalun Trail was opened on November 23, 2018. (2) Implementing Buluowan Cultural Highlights to optimize related facilities:The renovation of the Truku Tribe Cultural Exhibition Hall was completed in 2013. The renovation of the Meander Core Trail and landscape observation platform, the large parking lot, and the connection road to the Central Cross-Island Highway were completed in 2016. Visitors' safety was given priority for building of Buluowan Suspension Bridge at Buluowan. Site selection was completed in 2014, and construction work began on August 1, 2016. Shanyuan Suspension Bridge was completed in September 2019. Peripheral service facilities, including accessibility (barrier-free service) facilities to the suspension bridge, were constructed to optimize the dispersal of visitors to safe places to view the scenery. Buluowan Suspension Bridge was opened on August 12, 2020.(3) Implement dispersal plans for Su-hua and mid-high altitude areas visitors. The established "Taiwan Ten Scenic Spots" includes a Qingshui Cliff viewing spot at the Huide area of the Su-hua Highway that was completed in 2014. The facilities improvement project at Su-hua Huide and other areas was completed in 2018, and the barrier-free facilities in Su-hua Huide Recreation Area were further improved in 2021. It will be announced as a barrier-free (accessibility) activity place. Baiyang trail facility maintenance and slope stabilization construction work was completed and the area opened in early 2018.
  • Plan Objectives
    • 1. Increase the disaster prevention capability of facilities and, in combination with management of disaster avoidance and conformity to disaster, carry out visitor dispersal on a priority basis.
    • 2. Combine near-natural landscape engineering methods and universal design to promote rockfall protection related facility projects.
    • 3. Promote the achievement of a sustainable, safe, and leisurely environment.

IV. Results

    • (1) The park administration has actively addressed the problem of rockfalls in recent years; The Xiaozhuilu Trail was opened on November 2, 2015, linking Taroko and Shakadang. The third stage of the rockfall protection construction work on the section of at Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou) trail (Jinheng Park), that is often crowded with vehicles and people was completed in February 2018. These projects will ultimately strengthen tourist safety.
    • (2) To improve in visitor safety and dispersal, the building of the Buluowan Suspension Bridge was given priority. Site selection was completed in 2014, the construction work began on August 1, 2016. The Shanyuan Suspension Bridge had been completed in September 2019. Peripheral service facilities will continue to be optimized to prevent overcrowding, to disperse visitors, and to improve scenic spots. After the completion of managerial measurement preparation, the Shanyuan Suspension Bridge opened on August 12, 2020.
    • (3) The most important aspect of operational management at present is to enhance visitor safety advocacy and to further spread dispersal of visitors across the Park; in coordination with highway and police units and Hualien County Government, a Shakadang and Eternal Spring Shrine traffic dispersal plan was implemented and an off-road temporary parking lot was opened to large vehicles on January 13, 2016, established at Xiagu Bridge (closed to the east entrance of Taroko gorge) on the Central Cross-Island Highway, effectively improving safety and reducing traffic congestion.
    • (4) The Taroko Gorge Rockfall Response Program will continue to be implemented as part of to Taroko National Park Plan with a budget depending upon requirements to enhance recreation qualities and reinforce tourists’ safety.