BEACH lovers drew a line in the sand this week against Fremantle sailing club’s plans to build a new boat ramp off South Beach.
Locals say the ramp, planned for junior and disabled sailors, involves building a 75m spur off the existing groyne. The club has three launching jetties, two of which have silted up, and locals say it should redevelop existing facilities rather than encroach further on public land.
On its website the council notes, “there is no current access to the water for people with a disability and junior sailors currently navigate through the marina to get to the waters of South Beach”.
On Tuesday, residents met on-site to protest plans they believe will destroy the last piece of undeveleoped beach south of Fremantle.
At least one local believes the plan is a stalking horse, paving the way for a dramatic increase in boat pens at the club.
Judy McLachlan, whose family moved from South Perth to South Fremantle 18 months ago, pointed the Herald to a 2008 Perth recreational boating facilities study which shows 500 pens are planned for the club by 2025.
“The planned universal ramp at South Beach is only the start of a grab for more area for the 500 boat pens,” she says.
“It would be logical to also surmise that the new groyne is only the start of another long groyne running out in a westerly direction so as to accommodate the new pens.”
The club acknowledges it plans to construct the new groyne, with $500,000 of rubble taken from the “Kalbarri” groyne within its sheltered harbour, effectively cutting it in half and freeing up space.
Fremantle Labor candidate Simone McGurk says most people oppose the boat ramp plan.
“The ability to create decent disabled access to the beach has a lot of merit, however users of the dog beach are concerned at the club further encroaching into public space,” she says.
South Fremantle resident and club member Mike Kenny says members he’s spoken to are happy with existing facilities.
Photojournalist Roger Garwood says the club has three launching ramps, two of which appear to be neglected: “One presumes the small ramps were built with the same expectation that the proposed groyne is planned—that it will not silt up the beach.”
Carmel Coyne says people are determined to fight continued “club creep” on their much-loved piece of beach north of the main grassed area at South Beach.
“It is an infringement on public space and we don’t want it and we don’t need it,” she says. “The issues about disabled access is a furphy.”
Ms McLachlan agrees: “We looked everywhere for a place to retire and our son suggested coming here. If you put a 75m groyne out to there, you spoil it for a lot of people, old people doing their yoga and young children learning to swim.”
Retired archaeologist Charlie Dortch, one of the leaders of the campaign against the plan, says there are few places left where people can use the beach without swimming into boats.
“This is where the battle starts, right here,” he says.
Fremantle Greens candidate Andrew Sullivan—one of two south ward representatives on Fremantle council—accepts there is strong opposition. He says more assessment is needed before council considers approving the plan.
Liesbeth Goedhart, whose daughter learnt to sail at the club, wrote to council in February opposing the plan. She’d regretted completing a survey saying, “it could be used in a way I did not intend”.
“Because in the survey I agreed with access for the disabled, and was neutral about the need for young sailors to launch their dinghies. It could be interpreted that I may/would support the plans for a boat ramp.”
She does not support the idea because it is, “about people, dogs and swimming—not boats. Who wants to go for their morning swim in a ‘boat pen’ area?
“Let them sacrifice some boat pens to give their young sailors more room to get out onto the open sea.”
The public has until February 28 to comment on the club proposal which also comes with a questionnaire at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SBUA.
by CARMELO AMALFI