April 25 - May 1, 2021: Issue 491


residents object to Newport’s Historic Trafalgar Park being cut in two by 2.5m wide concrete path

On any given day you can step into Trafalgar Park Newport and the sound of many birds is instantly all around you, above that the breeze sloughing softly through the trees. It's, literally, stepping into a place where a soft chorus of birdsong is covered by a soft chorus of leaves and above that a wide clean sky while at your feet is cooling green grass and stands of majestic Australian trees.

You are instantly away from the hot tarred roads that run around it and the noise of traffic falls away. 

This cool green open space that has been this way since time immemorial - even when the original subdivisions commenced in 1880 this place was set aside as a common ground for the community. Adjoining the also historic Newport Public School the park is a place where the schoolchildren of the past played and the present students play, still.

In February 2021 Council announced a plan to install a shared concrete path through the park, effectively cutting it in two. The proposal seeks to provide wider and safer walking and cycling routes for the community including greater accessibility for prams, wheelchairs and mobility scooters along with improving safety and connectivity to Newport Public School and the existing shared path along Gladstone Street. (See Community News page archives for concept design impression). 

Funding for the proposed project was made available through the Transport for NSW Active Transport 2020/21 grant funding program.

Council commenced a community consultation through a webpage listing the proposal in their 'Have Your Say' section of their website and had 72 respondents, mostly supportive of the idea in the proposal of a shared path, but also, mostly, wanting amendments

Since the consultation period expired, on March 28th, those who were unaware of the proposal have also expressed objections and even forwarded suggestions to alternatives that will keep the space green and keep out the environmental impact of concrete increasing temperatures in urban areas and its impact on wildlife. Although many may not notice the incremental loss of green space, in Pittwater residents fight for every tree and every patch of green to be retained. 

Council has placed a Community Engagement report on its proposal feedback webpage now and this too echoes the ideas that have been expressed by others since. 

The main point from these is that residents don't want the green space cut in half by concrete - alternatives that would still have this shared path but have it installed on its perimeter along Stuart street or King street have been expressed as more attractive preferences. Residents are concerned that bikes speeding along the path may knock a child over and backed that up by stating that this is a park, not a thoroughfare for any form of transport. 

The park is used by the school for sport, dogs play here too and family picnics and cricket matches have long been part of the Trafalgar park scene, so concrete is not wanted - permeable materials are preferred wherever a path is installed. 

In fact, the number of residents expressing dismay with the concreting of Pittwater, with paths appearing where they weren't before, the sudden appearance of sandstone blocks on parks, or proposals to install plastic playing fields are growing. No one wants to see tar meeting concrete meeting plastic, especially in an era when we need to cool things down, not heat things up, and retain these jewel green places and the areas where they still predominate.

Penny Auburn, one of the residents who have contacted Pittwater Online on this subject stated this week;

''The centre of the park is where dozens of Newport Public School children play and run freely twice a day every day, and where they jog daily on winter mornings. It’s also a spot where families gather for outdoor activities on weekends, where community members go to practice their tai chi, walk the dog or just to enjoy the trees and experience a bit of wild green space. Having bikes speeding down a slope on a very wide path, and travelling through the centre of the only level piece of useable ground in the park is bad design.''

''Council's online consultation document said the path would be suitable for wheelchairs and mobility scooters. They got it wrong. The slope doesn't meet NSW safety regulations for wheelchairs and mobility scooters.'' Penny said.

''I'm fighting to save beautiful Trafalgar Park in Newport being sliced in two by the Northern Beaches Council's Transport Network's misguided scheme to put a 2.5 metre wide (8 1/2 feet in the old money) concrete cycle path right through the middle of the park.''

''I've talked to them, and sent them alternative concepts, as have a couple of locals including an architect. They refuse to listen to any requests for a change.

Photos show the area the path would run diagonally across at the Gladstone Street end of the park. It's perfect for all sorts of play, exercise and relaxing activities and will be ruined by a concrete transport corridor running through it. '' Penny stated

Others have stated they would prefer to see the main streets in Newport repaired, that cracked pavements that need concrete and are currently a hazard for walkers should be prioritised. More street repairs adjoining the park have also been listed as preferred priorities as well as the final installation of long called for pavements in the streets surrounding the school. The long promised path from Newport School along Crescent Road to be extended to Waterview Street is still missing and still not on the horizon even. The narrow, uneven footpath on Queens Parade between Newport School and Kalinya Street needs to be updated and widened and made safe for parents with strollers, children and the general public including the elderly, according to those that live there - could this be a place and places for the concrete bestowed on Council by Transport for NSW?

Of all this feedback the main point is that this is a park - not a thoroughfare for those travelling by any other means than on foot. The clashes between pedestrians and those on cycles at Narrabeen Lagoon or at Manly, where near and actual collisions have occurred, and the potential for some small youngster to be run over by someone speeding down the slope is just too great. 

Residents who have spoken to Transport for NSW state Council has already told them (TfNSW) they intend to proceed with their plan, as first proposed - meaning it's not nor ever was a 'proposal' at all but another cutting into a open green space with unwanted concrete and putting speeding bikes into the centre, or right through, a children's and family playground.

Residents opposed to the plan are requesting those who missed out on the consultation announcement to communicate with your local Pittwater Councillor at Northern Beaches Council.

Trafalgar Park Newport

Photos taken April 24, 2021