Hot weather saw some several hundred protesters angrily press their point with Ballina Mayor David Wright that Lake Ainsworth’s eastern road should remain open, at a rally on Saturday (January 13).
But the mayor declined to change his position, and that of the council as a whole, that the road should be closed to benefit the ecology of the lake and a pedestrian precinct created on the eastern shore.
The group Preserving Lake Ainsworth Inc (PLA), who say 460 people ‘signed on’ with them objecting to the road closure, argue that a large number of car parking spaces will be lost as a result of the plan and that council is looking at introducing paid parking elsewhere around the lake.
But the mayor has stated that the council has no plans for paid parking in the vicinity of the lake.
He added the group had overstated the number of parking spaces that would be lost.
PLA member Don Opie told Echonetdaily, ‘It is illogical that the existing informal car parks on the Eastern Road and Southern Road are not counted by the council. It is stated in their DA that southern foreshore existing parking numbers have not been counted for this master plan.’
‘Of course, not counting existing car parks assists if you are attempting to hide the impact of this road closure.
Mr Opie said ‘many elderly people’ had told him that despite not being disabled ‘I cannot park over there and walk down this closed roadway to enter the water where I currently do’.
He added that even if paid parking didn’t go ahead, ‘the DA states limited timed parking is recommended to “address the overflow from the caravan park and to cycle lake and beach users”.’
‘This loss of functioning infrastructure is a big deal.
‘Much of the year the roadway is quiet, yet it accommodates higher holiday numbers [through] its informal nature. It’s not broken why is it being closed against the wishes of the majority?’ he questioned.
But the Lake Ainsworth Interest Group (LAIG), who also had a presence at the lake on the weekend, have a conflicting view.
‘We understand that some people are worried about parking and also that some people just want it to stay how it is. However we don’t believe the area can stay how it is – it’s not safe and the long overdue environmental works need to happen,’ spokesperson Shaun Eastment said in a media release.
‘We’ve sat through many debates about the options and practicalities of bringing the area up to scratch and retaining a road and car parking.
‘It’s a narrow space and we haven’t seen a proposal that allows for the stormwater management and riparian restoration works, addresses the safety problems and still leaves space for people to sit and enjoy the lake,’ Ms Eastment said.
Filling in the lake
She added that a compromise solution being promoted by the pro-road group amounted to filling in part of the lake.
‘The compromise solution… involves reclaiming a 15-20m wide, 200m long stretch of the lake – turning water into land so to speak.
‘We don’t believe the community will be happy to see excavators digging up or filling in the lake so we can fit cars in.
‘We also don’t believe it’s a feasible option,’ Ms Eastment said.