The footpath of contention

The footpath of contention

An aerial view of the proposed footpath extension.

53-metre footpath in Jarrahdale has become a hotly-contested topic.

Or, at least, the absence of the footpath has, with council to address the issue for the second time in two months.

Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale President Michelle Rich brought a motion to the September council meeting to consider finishing off the newly-constructed footpath along Jarrahdale Rd to meet the visitor information parking bays.

“That length of footpath fell short by roughly 50-odd metres due to funding. We now have this situation where the visitors to the area who park in the visitor information bays are using the roadway as a footpath to gain access to where the footpath finishes,” Cr Rich said.

Council officers have estimated it would cost $60,000 to extend the footpath past the Nettleton Rd intersection, as was originally intended.

The motion also addressed the need to consider traffic calming measures to meet a projected rise in traffic after the Tonkin Highway Extension is completed.

Council officers have estimated it would cost $250,000 to draw up a concept plan and detailed design.

Cr Shaye Mack raised an objection to the motion – not because he disagreed in principle with the footpath, but because he felt there needed to be a “process” to avoid project queue-jumping.

“I do foresee that this is an important piece of infrastructure that we are going to need at some point in the future, but … I think we need to have a strategic plan for all footpaths and not just rush into things,” Cr Mack said, citing that ratepayers had discussed with him the need for a number of other footpaths around the shire, including at the Graceford Aged Care Facility where “there is approximately 100 metres of foot pathing that falls short, and their walking frames and footpaths can’t fit onto that footpath, prohibiting access to shops”.

The motion was lost two to five.

Cr Mack then proposed that the shire first develops an asset management plan to “create a priority list” which will be discussed at a council Policy Concept Forum (PCF) “in the first instance” – a motion that was passed 6:1.

Council officers revealed that an asset management plan for footpaths was already in its conceptual phase, but that funds were needed in order to develop it.

A useable plan and priority list for council to consider would not realistically be ready until at least the 2025/26 financial year.

Not willing to face defeat on this issue, Cr Rich will bring her motion back to next week’s council meeting – the final one before the local government elections on October 21.

But there will be an extra hurdle this time around: a shire procedural clause states that lost motions can’t be heard again for three months, except with the consent of an absolute majority of councillors.