October 20th 2010
Resumptions and realignment for West Point Road
Magnetic Island’s scenic West Point Road strays into private property at three locations along its unsealed section. Townsville City Council is now planning to resume two of these to preserve the road’s position and realign the third back to within the road reserve. But while realignment will resolve the legal constraints, attitudes towards just how the road - which crosses a range of environmentally sensitive areas - should be maintained, remain.
The sections of the road to be resumed from private land are shown in Council documents to have an “indicative” cost of $30,000 each. One strip is 4,300 and the other at 3,500 sq metres.
The area set for realignment is at the picturesque Duck Creek crossing. According to the Council Agenda, “This site has ongoing drainage maintenance issues. The road can easily be realigned within the existing dedicated road reserve with the removal of some small trees. The drainage problems can also be resolved with the installation of a small causeway.
One section set for resumption runs through a private property which is also a nature refuge beginning on the north west side of Goldmine Hill and skirting nearby samphire flats while the other, also a nature refuge, starts near Retreat Creek running for approximately 200 metres parallel to the present road towards West Point.
The section of road to be resumed near Goldmine Hill The bush area to the left of the road near Retreat Creek is to be resumed
Committee chairman Cr Brian Hewett said having the road located wholly within a council controlled road reserve was necessary to enable regular legal maintenance.
While the resumption process will resolve the road’s legal status, Cr Hewett also claimed in a press release, that, “council has had a lot of difficulty with maintaining the West Point Rd because of the concerns of local groups...”
In last week’s agenda to the Infrastructure Committee’s meeting, it notes: “Generally there are two (2) groups of residents, those who do not want the road to be maintained and those who want a safe and well maintained road.”
Since then, Magnetic Island Councillor, Trevor Roberts, has told Magnetic Times, “Since coming to council I’ve had repeated requests from residents living both along and at the end of West Point Road.
“There are differing opinions from residents using the road about the quality of the road that they want. Some residents want an improved road, whilst others want the road to remain degraded to reduce the number of non residents using the road.”
Claims of residents not wanting a well maintained road or preferring a degraded road have, however, puzzled locals, particularly some who attended a broadly representative meeting of 18 land owners/residents who met to discuss the road in March last year.
From that meeting, the aim of achieving a well maintained road doesn’t appear to be at issue. How the road is to be maintained, given its difficult, low lying location and going by past attempts by council to improve it, does.
That meeting resulted in a letter to the new Council seeking to discuss the road’s ongoing maintenance - expecting that a grader was about to be deployed on the road. In the letter, “Concern was expressed that our previous experience is that a grader now would cause more damage than it would fix.” It also reiterated the aim of, “...keeping the road low key but practical, narrow and winding with speeding discouraged so that there is slow traffic, walkers and pushbikes encouraged,” and, “we would like to avoid repeating previous mistakes and as we have a wealth of local knowledge and some constructive contribution to make we would like an opportunity to consult with Council,”
According to land owner Charlie McColl, who sent the letter, “Council has never responded.”
Cr Roberts told Magnetic Times, “I have residents who live at West Point who have health issues and are genuinely concerned about how long it would take an ambulance to get to them with the road in it’s present condition. I believe that road must at least be maintained to a standard that meets these obligations.”
A resident who attended last year’s meeting, who is also a member of the long-standing West Point Liaison Group, Mr Gethin Morgan, confirmed that the issue is mostly one of dealing carefully with drainage along the road which runs through seasonal wetlands, nature refuges and the Bolger Bay Conservation Park. “Everybody wants a trafficable road. Our issue with council is that it has moved away from the process which worked very well in the past. It undoes all the good drainage works we’d previously worked out.”
“Grading fixes it for the dry but makes it worse for the wet,” he said.
Drainage is an issue which goes back a long way on the West Point road. In September 1998, Magnetic Times reported that the West Point Road Liaison Group was nominated when 45 residents and land owners met with the, then, Deputy Mayor, Cr Ann Bunnell and TCC’s Director of Engineering Barry Stanton.
At that meeting, “drainage emerged as perhaps the most pressing concern.” A week before, Magnetic Times reported a comment from Wendy Masters of Bolger Bay who said, “Fifteen years ago the road was much better, but with each grading the road gets deeper and deeper.”
Grading has also created problems with the spread of weeds which has been a concern for Magnetic Island Nature Care Assoc (MINCA) the trustee body for the Bolger Bay Conservation Park which the road traverses, as well as a number of landowners.
Ms Marjorie Glasson, President of MINCA, told Magnetic Times, “MINCA has, for ten years, had a significant interest and concern for this important area which is recognised by the Commonwealth and the State governments for its rich biodiversity.
“It would be appropriate that Council continue to work with the Liaison Group for the best possible outcomes”.
Gethin Morgan told Magnetic Times that the former council had told the Liaison Group they would have a management plan for the track. “We need a management plan that acknowledges the natural values of the road that are to be protected as well as the downstream marine park and a adjoining crown land and nature refuges”.
The one area where the road is to be physically relocated, at the Duck Creek crossing, is also one of the road’s most attractive features. It is home to stands of large blue gum and paperbark trees. Magnetic Times asked Cr Roberts as to how the realignment may be undertaken.
Cr Roberts said, “The design for this section has not been completed but it is true that a number of trees will require removal. The final design will attempt to minimise the number of trees to be removed and will use curves within design and safety constraints to achieve this. In such circumstances council takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and will do all it can to minimise tree removals, but where trees do have to be removed will provide compensatory plantings of appropriate species in the vicinity.
"The width of the road needs to be 5m to 5.5m to allow two vehicles to pass safely. This also is subject to final design and must include safety considerations. Council also needs to consider how close vehicles can travel to trees from the point of view of driver safety and also the impact of vehicles on the roots of the trees and therefore the tree health. All of this will be considered as part of the design."
The plan overall is expected to cost $135,000.
Story & photos: George Hirst
Disclaimer: George Hirst is a member of MINCA and resident user of the West Point road.
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