• intouch magazine | #09

Bathers Way now more accessible for all!

Newcastle's coastline is one of the city's greatest assets, increasingly being recognised at local, national and international levels for its beauty, environmental values, recreational opportunities and diverse range of activities. Newcastle's beaches receive more than two million visits per year and are a hub of community activities and the venue for a range of experiences.

The Bathers Way path connects Newcastle's beaches, covering 6km of the city's coastline between Merewether Ocean Baths to Nobby's Beach. Council committed to upgrading the Bathers Way when it asked the community to rank the most important projects needed along their coast.

Senior Project Planner for Council Heidi Kolatchew says before work began, Bathers Way was little more than a one-metre wide asphalt footpath. It was congested, inaccessible for many and struggling to cope with the volume of people wishing to access the coast, with up to 500 people an hour trying to use the path in some locations.It was very clear to the design team that they needed to create enough space for everyone to actually realise the potential of our coastline.

This meant providing facilities for an incredibly diverse range of uses and ensuring the path itself could cater for surfers, wheelchair users, pram-pushers, skateboarders, scooters and everything in between.Wheelchair users can now access more of the city’s coastline path, following an award-winning upgrade that has resulted in the use of the path almost doubling, according to Newcastle City Council.

To date, approximately 50% of the Bathers Way has been upgraded, with the path between Merewether and Bar Beach completed in December last year, and the path between Nobbys and Newcastle Beach completed in January. The upgrades on these sections have seen the use of the Bathers Way improve, with increased commercial and recreational activity coming along with it.

The upgrade has also received industry recognition, with Merewether Beach being awarded the Planning Institute of Australia's "Plan to Place" award at State level.In addition to upgrading the path, Council is also creating better spaces for people to enjoy the coastal environment by improving new shade and seating areas, viewing platforms, picnic areas and lighting.

6 ways Bathers Way will now cater to everyone: 1. Path width has increased to a minimum of 4 metres 2. Stairs have been removed 3. Path gradients have been reduced where possible 4. Accessible paths to viewing areas installed 5. More accessible parking spaces 6. Wheelchair friendly picnic tables installed

Due to the topographic nature of some sections of the path, the Bathers Way won't be accessible for its full length. However, Heidi says Council is mindful of providing access wherever possible and achieve compliant grades for approximately two-thirds of the path.

In addition to the path, Council is exploring options for providing wheelchair access onto some Newcastle beaches and seeking grants to upgrade Surf Clubs.

Where are accessible facilities provided?

  • The Bathers Way path between Nobby's and Newcastle Ocean Baths is accessible

  • The path between Merewether Ocean Baths and Dixon Park is accessible

  • The recently completed paths at Bar Beach and Nobby’s provide level access to picnic tables and viewing areas

  • Memorial Walk and viewing platform are accessible from Strzelecki Lookout

What's next? Council is working on the detailed designs for the Bathers Way between Bar Beach and Newcastle Beach, including King Edward Park, which will see the creation of a recreational hub at South Newcastle Beach, improved access to Shepherds Hill Cottage and King Edward Park Rotunda Lawn, new amenities, viewing decks and picnic areas.

For more information visit council's website www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au or get intouch with the Bathers Way team by e-mail at weloveourcoast@ncc.nsw.gov.au

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