Deadline comes and goes for cliff path

Scenic views: Views only available to the public from the cliff path leading to Mills Beach from Caraar Creek Lane.

Scenic views: Views only available to the public from the cliff path leading to Mills Beach from Caraar Creek Lane.

beleura path5IT should be billed as one of the great short walks of the Mornington Peninsula, but it has been officially closed for years.

The footpath known as the Beleura cliff path at Mornington winds its way along a cliff before descending steeply to Mills Beach.

The track democratises views only available from the multi-million dollar properties built above it on the cliff face.

Not everyone can own such a property because (a) there’s not enough space on the cliff and (b) few people have the money to live there.

But the path was made for the public and the views are free.

However, parts of the bitumen track have been undermined. There have been landslips and safety rails and fences are broken, with drainage from the grand properties above being blamed.

Stormwater from the properties is supposed to be piped directly to the beach below, but over the years pipes have ruptured allowing water to seep into the ground. In some cases pipes ended above the beach, saturating and eroding the cliff.

Despite “track closed” signs and others warning of danger, the track is used by hundreds of people each week. It is an integral part of a walk that takes in Mills Beach, parts of The Esplanade, Kalimna Drive and Caraar Creek Lane.

One builder, who did not wish to be identified, remembers a shire building inspector being strict about the storm water drains going all the way to the beach “because houses below could become undermined and tumble down the slope”.

Some years ago Mornington Peninsula Shire built a boardwalk over a section of the eroded cliff, but has done little further up the track where the bitumen is cracked and broken. Yellow lines mark the edges of the deepest cracks, with arrows pointing to particularly deep ones. Liquid bitumen has been used to seal some cracks.

Wire fences preventing access have been pushed aside, the warning signs ignored.

Mornington Peninsula Shire officially closed the 100-year-old path in November 2013 to head off any legal claims resulting from the landslip, poor walking surface and lack of adequate fencing.

In December 2015 the shire announced a $200,000 repair package.

Members of the Caraar Creek Coastal Cliff steering committee estimate repairs to the path from landslips caused by errant storm water and irrigation flows have cost ratepayers $400,000 over the past 13 years.

The December meeting was told work on fixing the path would start in February and finish mid-2016.

Committee member Kate Phillip says only minor maintenance has been done on the path: repair of a collapsed boardwalk post and filling the cracks in the asphalt with molten asphalt.

“Both jobs had to be redone as the first attempt was unsupervised and unsatisfactory. This is where all our money goes, gone are the days of doing the job properly the first time,” Ms Phillip said last week. To add insult to injury a “chainsaw crew” cut down three “substantial she oaks which have deep roots to anchor and stabilise the cliff”.

Ms Phillip said the original plans, drawn up by an engineer no longer with the shire, had been “dumped”.

If carried through, the result of the “questionable” plans would have been unlikely to have lasted 10 or 15 years.

“At subsequent meetings of our committee with the shire, a peer review of this repair solution was agreed to, for which we are very grateful. This may give us a repair less likely to be another Band-Aid,” Ms Phillip said.

“It is now approaching three months since start of the peer review, [and] we have received no communication, no progress reports and some very dismissive ‘these things take time’ from the cliff path project manager.

“We all know the shire’s initial intention was to close the path. Public pressure forced a change in that approach and for a while we thought their intention to improve the public asset was genuine.”

The shire’s cheif operating officer Alison Leighton said on Friday that results of the peer review are due this week, with a contractor expected to start work in July.

Ms Leighton said the works were expected to take three months to complete.

First published in the Mornington News – 21 June 2016


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