Blocked ramp denies disabled beach access

IT cost more than $100,000 to build and was hailed as a breakthrough for people with disabilities, but Warrnambool’s special foreshore access ramp has one big drawback — sand. Tonnes of it.

Since it was opened in late 2011 after a large gap was cut into sand dunes, the sloping wooden structure has been blocked numerous times, rendering it useless until manually cleared. It was blocked again at the weekend when temperatures hit 40-plus degrees and will be off-limits until cleared again.

Two city councillors have called for a major rethink and either relocation or a radical design change which would make it less likely to become clogged up.

However, council leaders and a disability representative on the committee which advised on the ramp project want it retained.

“You can’t stop nature,” mayor Michael Neoh said. “Sand also blows over other beach access steps.

“Maybe our cleaning regime needs to be more regular over summer, particularly when there are strong winds, and maybe something different could be looked at for the bottom of the ramp.

“There’s no single fix unless you put concrete right up to the water’s edge. I don’t think people would be too keen on that.”

Disability representative Ray Ahearn disputed criticism about the ramp’s siting.

“It’s an excellent ramp with easy access from Pertobe Road — it’s just the damn sand that’s the problem,” he said.

“I’d be extremely reluctant to move it. 

“Initially there were plans to put marram grass at the base, but that doesn’t seem to have worked.”

Cr Peter Sycopoulis, who slammed the design as a waste of money in his 2011 lead-up to  election, held fast to his view this week.

“Surely it would have been better closer to the McGennan car park,” he said.

“I think it’s a white elephant the way it is.

“Stop trying to deny there’s a problem, admit the design mistake and let’s rectify it.”

Cr Peter Hulin slammed the project at Monday night’s council meeting, describing it as “an absolute disaster”.

“Remove the mess, revegetate the dune and fix the environment,” he said.

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