Council feels heat in sauna backlash

We’re still trying to work out who’s enjoying a herbal blend behind the masks, but it might just be a couple of sauna staffers.

A PORTABLE sauna at South Beach has been given a temporary stay of execution after a public outcry.

The Finnish-style sauna has been popular with locals and beachgoers since opening in June, but it was originally only given a permit to run until November 30.

When operator Brigid Marciarno, who also runs The Neighbourhood Sauna opposite Fremantle Hospital, was initially told she’d have to wind up in November, there was an outcry and an online petition quickly whipped up 400 signatures.

But in a repeat of the debacle which cost the beach its markets last year, when council staff did relent the conditions weren’t that appealing.

Ms Marciarno was told she could have the permit extended to February, but then other operators would be given the chance to put in their own bids and potentially benefit from her idea and goodwill.

“It’s supposed to be about keeping it fair and equal which is not equal at all,” Ms Marciarno told the Herald. 

Fremantle councillor Adin Lang, who’s enjoyed a sauna or two at the beach, said the city was now working with Ms Marciano to find a long-term solution for her.

“We’re exploring options to keep it there in the long-term even as an expanded facility even though it’s a private business,” Cr Lang said. 

“I use that service at the beach, and I know people would have to go to Melville to use a sauna,” he said.

Fremantle Leisure Centre doesn’t have its own sauna, so Cr Lang said South Beach’s acted as a stopgap for community demand.

“It is potentially an even better option being right on the beloved beach,” he said. 

Ms Marciano said she was happy to work with the council on a long-term solution, offering to pay for the power and maintenance at no expense to the council.

“I could not be happier for my community,” she said. 

“If it could become something for the long-term that is able to help people with their mental health and connection to the land, I’d be more than happy.” 

She was concerned about the uncertainty for her staff.

“I have 11 staff working for me, and I need to let them know what is happening.”

“I’m not letting this go. The community loves it too much.”

University of Notre Dame lecturer Mignon Sharlow is a regular user of the sauna and would love it to become permanent.

“I love the communal nature of the South Beach sauna: five people, often complete strangers, sharing the elemental experience of heat and then the exhilaration of the ocean,” Dr Shardlow said.

“Each time I’ve been to the sauna I’ve felt that it’s been a community builder of shared experiences whether you are in total silence or in conversation.”


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