Backlash forces a 13th trail backflip

Andrew Mathieson
A PUBLIC backlash has forced Barwon Coast Committee of Management to back down from plans to build a controversial 1.8kilometre boardwalk at popular 13th Beach.
Committee members decided to scrap a planning permit application for a shared trail across the beach’s dunes after considering the sentiment of public submissions to Geelong’s council.
However, Barwon Coast general manager Bob Jordan said the committee planned to investigate options for an alternative trail.
The options included a safe walking track along Stephens Parade linking to 13th Beach Road and its surf life saving club.
The committee also resolved to extend an existing trail along Barwon Heads Caravan Park.
Another proposal is to expand the road shoulders along 13th Beach on each side by 1.5 metres to enhance pedestrian safety.
Mr Jordan believed the aboutface over the proposed boardwalk demonstrated that his public authority was prepared to respond to community feedback.
“The key thing is the committee members wanted to see every submission that has been received by council and, having reviewed those submissions, they recognise most of the submissions were opposed to the proposal,” he said.
“They said we’ll withdraw it and we’ll have a look at other alternatives.”
Friends of the Bluff’s Jon Duthie, a strong campaigner against the boardwalk, said the backdown was “environmentally a fantastic decision”.
But he still questioned the process.
“Unfortunately, it throws up a million other questions about why these proposals actually get to that stage,” Mr Duthie said.
Friends of the Bluff had worked in association with the Barwon Coast committee on the project.
Mr Duthie believed a push from new Barwon Heads representatives helped their cause.
“It is a bit of an oddity that a decision was taken by a former committee and has been overturned by the current committee,” he said.
Geelong Environment Council’s Joan Lindros was happy to support the decision.
However, she said the council would still push to close the road along 13th Beach.
“We’re very pleased common sense has prevailed and the dunes and vegetation will continue to be protected,” she said.
“There has been a recognition of its value in stopping erosion and sand drifts.”