Bowlo holds the right line

NORTH FREO BOWLO will get a 10-year lease on the North Fremantle Bowling Club after surviving a tough selection process.

Fremantle council’s finance and policy committee approved the home-grown bid last Wednesday after the full council sent it back for a review of the neck-and-neck top two applicants in August.

Councillors were given the submissions from the Bowlo club and the North Fremantle Social Club as confidential documents, prompting committee chair Jenny Archibald to warn the dozen speakers from the clubs to steer clear of mentioning their contents in public question time.

The council had hoped the two organisations could collaborate, but Bowlo committee member Elizabeth Smith said she feared changing the resident-led bid to accommodate NFBC’s broader agenda might “dilute” the local enthusiasm.

“At first glance the North Freo Bowlo will be a recreational club especially for North Fremantle folk, but look further it can be the core community hub for local young families – arguably the lifeblood of the community,” Ms Smith said.

“North Freo is a small area on a peninsula which has huge future planning and development issues and opportunities; it would greatly benefit from having a social hub where a sense of community is fostered to benefit North Freo’s future.”

Former Dockers player and Fremantle Foundation founder Dylan Smith revealed Bowlo had proposed a management committee to oversee the precinct, including Gordon Dedman Reserve and the social farm on Thompson Road, based on a similar model used at Gil Fraser Oval.

“The committee will oversee the successful integration and collaboration between the North Fremantle Social Farm, the North Freo Bowlo, the City and other emerging stakeholders,” Mr Smith said.

“We have 150 pre-commitments for social memberships and aim to emulate West Leederville [Bowlo’s] success which has 1000 members.”

Mr Smith said the bowling club held a special history for him and his partner Julia Jones.

“In 2008 Julia and I, along with the help of family and friends, held a supper club; we served home-made curries and desserts, ran a raffle and raised a couple of thousand dollars.

“It was the first precious dollars towards a new organisation called the Fremantle Foundation.”

Mr Smith said since then the foundation had distributed $3.5 million to social organisations around Fremantle.

Social club president Raymond Grenfell said they’d tried to collaborate with Bowlo crew but were constantly rebuffed, earning a chiding from councillor Doug Thompson that public comments describing Bowlo’s bid as “by the rich, for the rich” probably didn’t help.

“In reflecting on both the former [bowling club] and now Bowlo’s hesitation to collaborate with us, I want to say that I understand,” Mr Grenfell said.

“I spent my early childhood in a small country town; I can understand the localism and the fear of so-called outsiders.

“But this is Fremantle, it’s a place of pride and collaboration and inclusive community, where it shouldn’t matter which side of the river you live, which school you went to or how much money you have, and I strongly believe our community spaces should reflect that.”

Despite losing out in North Fremantle, the social club got some encouragement from mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge.

“I think your energy and effort is bigger than a venue; it’s something not to be lost at this point in time and we have heard loud and clear that there’s a need for more of these types of spaces that could get activated by people like you. 

“Our community does get squeezed out by various … commercial or other interests and that it is something that is a real challenge for the council.”

The committee voted 6-1 to support Bowlo’s bid, with the only dissenting voice coming from councillor Rachel Pemberton. She noted that while Bowlo were arguing for a family-friendly community space, the North Fremantle Community Hall adjacent to the bowling club was available for hire at a third of the price Bowlo was planning to charge for its new home and was usually available at least three nights a week.

by STEVE GRANT

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