The Convict Trail Project has been in existence since the early 1990's. It was initiated by the Bucketty and Wollombi communities (population 150 and 300 respectively) because of their concern about the degradation which was occurring to relics of the convict built Great North Road in their areas. The degradation resulted from a combination of neglect, vandalism, lack of awareness of the significance of the relics, and a lack of an overall management or conservation plan.
Frustrated by attempts to find an organisation or agency which was responsible for managing the Road, the local communities took the initiative in their own areas, and began restoring damaged sites under the guidance of a historical archaeologist and with the assistance of their local council. Realising that similar situations were probably happening elsewhere along the 240 km Road, in 1994 the groups began to involve other organisations with an interest in, or responsibility for conservation, management and promotion of the Great North Road. To date over 30 groups have joined the Convict Trail Project, ranging from councils, community groups, regional tourist organisations, government agencies, academic institutions and heritage organisations.
The Great North Road goes through over a dozen local government areas, each with a responsibility for managing heritage sites in their area. Parts of the Road also come under the jurisdiction of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority. By bringing together all these organisations with a responsibility for managing the Great North Road, and a range of community groups with an interest in its conservation and promotion the Convict Trail Project provides a unique forum for the long term management of one of Australia's national treasures.