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HomeLatest NewsManly Boardwalk closed for repair

Manly Boardwalk closed for repair

The Manly Federation Boardwalk, the timber walkway that leads past Manly Pavilion up to Fairlight Walk on Federation Point, was fenced-off on 29 February for public safety.

Manly Pavilion is still fully accessible but there is now no direct access to the Fairlight walk until repairs are underway. The detour is up the ramp behind the Manly Art Gallery and Museum.

Manly Observer understands there is a behind the scenes stoush over who needs to be paying for the repairs. The boardwalk is leased by Council but owned by the State Government. Council admitted it is likely to take “some months” before the boardwalk will be repaired. They would not comment on who would be paying for the work and when, only stating: “Council is investigating what can be done to do make it safe for public use in the short term however this will likely take some months. We are also actively working with Transport for NSW about options for the permanent long-term solution.”

A short L-shaped jetty that extends beyond the boarded-up Sea Life Centre aquarium (scheduled for demolition this year) also remains closed to public access.

A statement from Northern Beaches Council on 29 February revealed, “An independent engineering report, prepared for Council, found the walkway has deteriorated to a very poor condition and needs structural repair.

“The report recommended the closure of the boardwalk, which is owned by Transport for NSW and licenced to Council, until works have brought it back to a satisfactory condition.”

When this reporter first visited the site on the last day of summer, with temperatures in the mid-30s, a group of teenagers who normally enjoy leaping off the old jetty into the sea were nonplussed that steel-mesh fencing enclosed the area. Instead they took turns to jump off the wall along the paved walkway around the former aquarium.

Teenagers gather next to the Sea Life Centre to jump into the sea. The boardwalk jetty has been closed. Photo: Alec Smart

Popular promenade

The Federation Boardwalk and neighbouring jetty are the last sections of the original 1931-built Manly Boardwalk that extended from The Pavilion across to Manly Wharf, parallel to the West Esplanade.

Shark-proof netting below enclosed a 3.6 hectare tidal bathing area, and the wooden boardwalk featured a lower level for bathers to sunbathe or jump into the sea pool, as well as a dedicated diving platform, slides and diving wheels (rotating discs that launched swimmers into the water).

During peak summer periods over the Manly Boardwalk’s 33-years in operation, the harbour pool hosted over 5,000 bathers.

However, the 335 metre long, 3.4m wide timber promenade was destroyed in the catastrophic ‘Sygna’ storm of 25-26 May 1974. (The storm was named after a Norwegian ship carrying 50,000 tonnes of coal that was driven ashore by tidal forces and broken up on Stockton Beach, Newcastle, during the same intense weather phenomenon.)

Manly Boardwalk linked Manly Pavilion to the ferry wharf, and was in place for 33 years. Photo: State Library NSW

The current harbour pool by West Esplanade consists of shark netting strung between the old wooden posts that held up the historic promenade.

Manly ward Councillor Candy Bingham has long campaigned to rebuild the promenade from the Pavilion to Manly Wharf. In January 2022, she told Manly Observer how a feasibility study had been undertaken a decade earlier [see article here].

“In 2012 we had an environmental architect, Maurice Patten, look at the area at West Esplanade with a view to redesigning the recreation of the harbour pool and boardwalk…

“Now the State Government has declared they will demolish the old aquarium, I believe it’s a good opportunity for Council to come back and do the next stage, which is a proper environmental feasibility study into whether or not a boardwalk and pool can be reinstated in that space.”

The Sea Life Centre aquarium – closed January 2018 – will not be replaced after its demolition this year. Nevertheless, there are no plans at present to replace the wooden boardwalk from Manly Pavilion to Manly Wharf during the upgrade works.

This jetty and the boardwalk adjacent to Manly Pavilion have been closed after a safety inspection discovered the timber decking is unsafe to walk upon. Photo: Alec Smart

However, Council reassured us in a statement on 29 February that the last sections of the historic promenade closed off for safety will not be demolished. “Council is working on a plan to rectify the heritage walkway and bring it back into service and will keep the community updated.”

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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

Kim Smee, Editor

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