Pt Walter not for BMX

(DR) MARGO WARBURTON is a Palmyra resident and a committee member of the UWA Historical Society – which you’ll find is relevant as your read through her Thinking Allowed on why she believe’s Melville council’s chosen the wrong site for its proposed Pt Walter mountain bike facility.

I OPPOSE the placement of a BMX facility at Point Walter as proposed in the City of Melville’s BMX Masterplan of 2021. 

If developed, it would be the wrong facility in the wrong place. 

My opposition is based on social, environmental and cultural grounds. 

The area proposed is already well used for passive recreation by families and friends; the site itself is sandy and highly vulnerable to degradation, both within the proposed site area and outside it; and the proposed site is within close proximity to a memorial to Australian nurses who served and died in the one of the most horrifying episodes during World War II.

The trail planning company, Common Ground was engaged by the city in September 2020 to draw up a master plan for a BMX facility at Point Walter. 

Was it a part of a ‘wider community consultation process’ at this point as the document states? 

Common Ground claims that a BMX facility would draw visitors from the “greater reaches of Perth and beyond”.

Recreation

The area is already one of the most popular recreation sites around the Swan River. 

Indeed, it can be impossible to find parking during weekends and other festive times throughout the year. 

A BMX track is a highly intensive use, which would be juxtaposed against the passive, inclusive, community use that already occurs. 

The preamble to the plan states that the Point Walter site is suitable. 

It is not. The site is a sandy slope, close to an even steeper slope to the north, (the pink area on the maps on page 5 of the Master Plan), which it is proposed would act as a buffer zone to the facility.

An already fragile slope cannot act as a buffer zone. 

Extensive stormwater management would be needed. 

Area 2 is designated as low impact, however, the map shows otherwise – it would be the area of highest impact.

The Master Plan proposes a mixture of hard (concrete) surfaces, which would interfere with the natural drainage, and soft surfaces which would create dust. 

The plan states that existing vegetation would be incorporated “as best as possible”’. 

If “possible” cannot be achieved, will existing trees be removed? Could remaining trees survive the extensive built infrastructure? 

Compare the proposal with other BMX tracks – Cockburn or Bull Creek for example.

Trees are nowhere to be seen. Indeed, trees must be impacted by the compacted fill and concrete that will be extensively used. 

They could not survive the disturbance and compaction of their root area.

They would also be hazardous to users of the track. 

The existing playground is between 10 and 20 metres from the boundary (fence), cited as an advantage for BMX users. 

However, picnickers would be impacted by noise, dust, shouting and bad language. 

The picnic area is already well-used, it does not need a BMX facility as a “drawcard for families”. 

Located on Honour Avenue and 50 metres from the southern muster point of the planned BMX track, is the Vyner Brooke Memorial, commemorating the Australian nursing sisters and physiotherapists evacuated from Singapore in 1942, who suffered the sinking of their ship by enemy bombers and the massacre of 21 survivors by a Japanese patrol. 

They were ordered into the ocean shallows and machine-gunned from behind. 

All except Sister Vivian Bullwinkel died.

Of the 65 who boarded the ship, eight women also died in captivity, only 24 finally returning to Australia. 

The memorial was dedicated in 1999 by Vivian Statham nee Bullwinkel AO, MBE ARRC FNM and another survivor, Mrs Wilma Young, nee Oram AM. 

Memorials

Memorials such as these act as surrogate grave sites for those who died at war, and must be respected.

Questions remain to be answered: will the proposed track be fenced? What will be its opening hours – 24/7 like the Cockburn track? Is it a commercial concern? Is there a club associated with it? What provision will be made for extra parking? Will that result in the destruction of remnant vegetation? 

Point Walter does not need to be “elevated” as the plan suggests – it already is well used for both active and passive recreation by all sectors of the community. 

There can be no “aesthetic value” in a BMX track as the plan suggests – it will be an unsightly pit of dirt and concrete on a highly vulnerable slope. 

A BMX track is a great idea, but it does not belong at Pt Walter – one of the prime river-front reserves of the Swan River. Put the BMX track somewhere else.

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