I am genuinely excited by the latest stage of Bathers Way - The South Newcastle Beach Project.
Novocastrians have long enjoyed spectacular views from our stunning coastline. However the grandeur of surfers, whales and maritime trade was diminished by congestion and lack of amenity along a narrow asphalt strip between the city's five beaches.
Newcastle City Council's Bathers Way project between Nobbys and Merewether is putting an end to the pinch by opening the coastal pathway to all walks of life.
More than widening the route for locals, the multi-million dollar coastal revitalisation project is broadening the city's overall appeal.
Concept plans for the stretch from Newcastle Surf Club to King Edward Park reveal the signature Bathers Way widened pathway plus an iconic skate bowl as well as street-style skate facilities, and making public domain improvements that will beautify the site between the ocean and the cliff
Art installations among stylish landscaping, tiered seating and shade shelters similar to those along the Merewether-Bar Beach section have also been proposed ahead of final design. Inclusion of a new kiosk, fitness and parkour equipment, and areas to stop and enjoy the view means that the South Newcastle stretch of the Bathers Way will offer something for everyone.
Bathers Way is fast becoming one of Newcastle's most loved attractions and one of the most iconic coastal walks in Australia stretching the 6km from Merewether to Nobbys Beach. The Bathers Way project has already transformed sections of our coast, with the project now 50 per cent complete. It has accessibility for pedestrians, cyclists and people with impaired mobility.
Judging by early successes, the Bathers Way could rival Sydney's Bondi to Bronte Walk and Victoria's Great Ocean Rd on the bucket list of great Australian coastal attractions.
Our beaches, the harbour, ocean bathes, cafes, restaurants, art installations, parks, shaded structures, bike racks, water fountains and exercise facilities will ultimately be linked in an urban planning masterstroke. Our beaches and coastal links are now much safer and more relaxed places for some two million beach users a year, even at the project's halfway mark.
The project was adopted by Council in 2012, with work commencing at Merewether shortly after. The path connecting Merewether to Dixon Park and Bar Beach was completed in December last year and the finishing touches added between Nobbys and Newcastle beaches in January.
The use of Bathers Way has almost doubled in these sections and sparked increased commercial and recreational activity, a sign of better things to come.
The Merewether Beach section was awarded the Planning Institute of Australia's "Plan to Place" award in NSW in what I hope will be the first of many awards.
Repair and reconstruction of the South Newcastle sea wall is underway and this reinforcement work will allow similar Bathers Way infrastructure to be built on top.
From there the widened path will eventually head over the hill through King Edward Park. This future section will be among the final stages of this wonderful project that will eventually produce a wholesale upgrade of our coastline. The whole community is to be congratulated on this achievement as all ages and abilities have helped shape and embraced this vision for the coast that Council has had for many years.