17 March 2023

End (finally) in sight for construction of new bridges in Umbagong District Park

| Claire Fenwicke
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Umbagong bridge announcement

City Services Minister Chris Steel, Ginninderra Catchment Group executive officer Kat McGilp, Belconnen Community Council chair Lachlan Butler and Ginninderra representatives Yvette Berry and Tara Cheyne at one of the Umbagong bridges to be replaced. Photo: Supplied.

The Umbagong District Park will be fully enjoyed once more with construction finally starting on three new bridges.

The wooden pedestrian bridges were closed in April 2021 after a safety audit found they needed to be replaced.

After almost two years of investigations, designs and community consultation, works officially began on Monday (14 March).

“This is the first significant upgrade to the bridges since they were constructed in 1986, and I’m sure these improvements will make the park safe and enjoyable,” City Services Minister Chris Steel said.

“The first two bridges will be completed around the middle of the year, with the third – including a new lookout and seating – to be completed in the third quarter of the year.”

Early works include soil and erosion control measures, with the new structures to be built exactly where the old bridges are located to minimise disruption to the natural environment.

Ginninderra Catchment Group executive officer Kat McGilp said this was particularly important.

“We have significant Ngunnawal site here with the grinding grooves and we also have extensive areas of critically endangered natural temperature grasslands,” she said.

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Community frustrations about the project have run high with a petition put together at the end of 2021 to spur the government into action.

There have also been disagreements over the designs.

But Belconnen Community Council chair Lachlan Butler said the wait was worth it.

“It has taken a while but there is definitely value in the consultation which has occurred,” he said.

“Originally there was going to be some stainless steel aspects to [the bridges] and a lot of people were a bit concerned that didn’t really fit in with the environment.

“At our most recent community council meeting, when the designs were put forward, there weren’t any comments on what was happening, [people] just wanted to know when it was going to happen.”

Mr Butler said keeping the natural feel of the park was important to the community.

“It’s so close to people’s houses but when you’re here it feels like you’re forever away,” he said.

“We’re so much further away from the business of life [here] and I think that’s why it’s such an important place for people.”

Other changes made included improving accessibility by making the bridges two metres wide rather than the originally proposed 1.8 metres, and adding the viewing platform on the longer bridge closest to Latham.

“While the older bridges provided some amenity, this new bridge will really fit in with the landscape,” Mr Steel said.

“We want to make sure that when we construct these bridges, the design has really taken into account the beautiful natural landscape and the ecological and cultural values that this place holds for the Belconnen community.

“It’s a rusted-steel design, similar to some of the bridges that Canberrans would have seen at Tidbinbilla.”

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Temporary access tracks and creek crossings will be constructed as part of the site establishment works, along with perimeter fencing and exclusion zones.

Landscaping will be carried out once the bridges have been opened.

The fourth timber bridge in the park (beneath Ginninderra Drive towards Flynn) was inspected in November 2021 and determined to be still fit for purpose.

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