The Wilby community might well be getting “the short end of the stick”, according to Councillor Peter Mansfield, but nonetheless the bridge providing main access to the Wilby Recreation Reserve will stay closed on the recommendation of Moira Shire Council.
The Yarrawonga Chronicle reported the concerns of the Wilby community after the vehicle bridge, providing access from the town centre to the Wilby Recreation Reserve was unexpectedly, and without notice, closed by Moira Shire Council.
The council then informed the community, via a fact sheet, that the bridge would not be reopened for vehicle access but rather restored to a footbridge reminiscent of an original 1900s bridge over the Sandy Creek which was built in the same location.
This is despite the fact that the current structure, built in the 1960s, has been used as a vehicle crossing since its construction.
Moira Shire Council unanimously endorsed at the September ordinary council meeting the recommendation that “the bridge across Sandy Creek at Wilby remain closed to traffic as it cannot reliably support the normally expected loads that such a bridge should be able to support”.
Council also resolved to “seek funding to restore the bridge to a footbridge as it was originally built” and advise users of the bridge and community of Wilby of the decision.
The recommendations were moved by Cr Wendy Buck and seconded by Cr Libro Mustica.
The current Wilby Bridge has for many years provided vehicle and pedestrian access to the Wilby Recreation Reserve for members of the community and visitors.
Sitting directly off the Tungamah-Peechelba Road, the bridge provides a link to the nearby Wilby Hall and, within the reserve, direct access to tennis courts, public toilets, barbecue rotunda and a playground.
Wilby resident Helen White told the Yarrawonga Chronicle the community didn’t necessarily want the existing structure restored or repaired and in fact would be happy with a whole new structure if it could provide a vehicle crossing.
“The issue isn’t about saving the bridge that is there – it’s about having a bridge that will provide vehicle access to the reserve from the centre of town,” she said.
Alternate access to the reserve is via another entrance used primarily by the Wilby Car Club. From the existing Wilby Bridge it requires a detour of more than 2kms, around the far side of the area, to enter via a gravel road; a road which Moira Shire Council has recently resheeted.
In moving the recommendations at the council meeting, Cr Buck said “this very much goes back to what we were saying with the annual report with balancing community expectation with projects competing for infrastructure funding”.
“Yes we would love to provide a new pedestrian and traffic bridge but the current bridge site does not meet modern traffic management requirements therefore there was the need to upgrade the rec reserve entry 2kms up the road,” Cr Buck said.
“I feel that in consultation with the community the plans and design of a new footbridge will be beneficial in either recreating the heritage value of the design or aspects of it for a positive outcome for the community.”
Cr Libro Mustica said because the original 1900s bridge was listed within council’s heritage study as a footbridge, even though that bridge no longer exists, the current bridge “should not therefore be replaced with an alternative vehicle bridge”.
Cr Peter Mansfield said he was disappointed the situation had come to this point.
“However we haven’t kept the bridge up to scratch over the years, we’ve let it deteriorate to the situation where it cannot support vehicle traffic,” he said.
“It would be great if we could retain this bridge in some form as a pedestrian bridge for the foreseeable future.
“Unfortunately, Wilby seems to be getting the short end of the stick all the time in that we’ve indicated that we want to close the local hall and now another infrastructure facility at Wilby in the bridge across the creek will be closed.
“But anyway, it’s a bit unfortunate but that’s the way it goes.”
Mrs White said while disappointed in council’s recommendation, the community would continue to rally support to have the vehicle crossing restored.
She said a community meeting was being planned and delegations would be sought with Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy and other state politicians.