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Batemans Bay is without a heart

The Beagle Editor, Batemans Bay is without a heart

Not an emotional or compassionate heart (there is ample evidence of an abundance of that); but a physical heart. Our town lacks an open central community area, or a town square, a civic space, or any focal point where the community can meet and gather as families, as friends, or to celebrate different occasions with others in the community. There is no obvious central location where visitors can first pause and to assess our town before considering their next move.

I live next to the only significant public green space within a kilometre from the Batemans Bay CBD. As far as I know this roughly 2 hectare under-used area doesn’t even have a name (although Menas Park may later be considered appropriate, being the name our original inhabitants had apparently used). It is a beautiful river-side parkland setting enclosing a modest but powerful memorial to Australia’s Vietnam Veterans. But few, certainly not first-time tourists, knows where it is or how to get there.

The smaller waterfront area between Innes Boatshed and our new bridge is the only available CBD space to develop a ‘physical heart’ for Batemans Bay, but the current planned foreshore redevelopment is a limited and shallow exercise that will deliver an open space suitable for little more other than feeding left-over chips to our already overweight and lice-ridden seagulls. Additionally, RMS has made it almost impossible for our increasingly confused tourists to find this area.

I know little about town planning and have no corrective suggestions to offer other than to appeal to Council, and to any others who may have influence, to not allow this current redevelopment opportunity to slip by without incorporating additional facilities and features to suitably highlight this remaining CBD green area as the community ‘heart’ of the Bay. My view is that this area should be better presented as our town square, or civic space, in a functional way of appealing as a gathering place for the community and visitors alike.

The national body ‘Healthy Spaces and Places’, defines easily accessed central public spaces as ‘important areas providing a forum for social and economic exchanges for community pride and community expression’.

As European towns became more urbanised centuries ago, merchants and traders jostled for space around the perimeter of the village square. But in the modern western world we seem to first build and expand retail and commercial eyesores, leaving little remaining open space for the community to retain its identity and traditions. In 2017, Apple had the audacity to announce that a number of its larger stores were to be rebranded as ’town squares’ in a move to persuade customers to gather as a community within wi-fi distance of its hand held cash registers. Not for me.

Batemans Bay does have a heart and a spirit; certainly it has community pride. This should be celebrated within a more sensitively designed waterfront public open space and not within an ever expanding commercial CBD area where traders cannot afford to trade.

Kim Odgers

September 2019

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