Council crews have installed grey metallic guardrails across the historic Diggers Bridge in the Mowbray Valley as part of the Diggers Bridge Renewal Project.
THE ORIGINAL Diggers Bridge, christened Anzac Bridge was constructed in 1919 by returned soldiers, slightly upstream of the current timber structure, and history buffs can view one of its original piles on display at the Teamster’s Memorial Park in Craiglie. The original bridge provided a crossing over the river until mid-1940 when it was replaced by a second structure, which we know as the wooden pedestrian bridge today. The third incarnation of Diggers Bridge, a concrete structure completed in 2019, sits on the site of the first bridge.
In 2018, Douglas Shire Council secured grant funding through the Queensland Government to replace the wooden structure with a dual carriage, concrete bridge. The original grant conditions required the complete removal of the iconic wooden structure. In July 2018, former Mayor Julia Leu announced Council had successfully convinced the Queensland Government to drop the condition requiring the removal of the wooden bridge noting,
“Council fought hard to preserve this idyllic bridge as a long-term recreational site for fishers, walkers and cyclists”JULIA LEU
At the time, Ms Leu added Council would work to “preserve the visual aesthetics of the area.” The charm of the site attracts a significant number of couples keen to secure photos of their wedding day on the wooden bridge surrounded by the beauty of the Mowbray Valley.
The $250 000 Diggers Pedestrian Bridge Renewal and Revegetation Project included the planting of 336 rainforest trees, removal of unused bitumen road, levelling and grassing, the placement of a table and chairs for picnics, a new pathway to enable pedestrian and cycle access to the wooden bridge and historical signage.
The project noted the “refurbishment of the pedestrian bridge and the installation of handrails will ensure the continued safe use of the wooden bridge for cyclists and pedestrians,” however at the time was not accompanied by concept images and did not go into detail regarding design or style.
Cr Abigail Noli, when contacted for comment this morning, noted although there may be a need for a handrail, she felt the current installation “quite an atrocious handrail,” lamenting she “wished myself and others could have had an input into the style.”
Consultation with the Mowbray Valley community or at minimum, the Councillors who represent them, appears not to have occurred before the installation of the new handrails. Prior consultation may have produced a more appropriate solution, at the same time providing an excellent opportunity for community involvement in the presentation of the bridge and area surrounding it.
Upon photographing the area this morning, it was noted the handrails block off the sides of the bridge, preventing access to fishing. The position and style of the handrail will also prevent wedding photography.
DNN spoke with former Councillor David Carey who commented he did not recall anything being presented to the previous Council regarding design or style options, noting,
“I think this railing is appalling…if I were still a Councillor, I would be seeking to get it removed”DAVID CAREY
When questioned by DouglasNews.Network about the handrails being a safety mechanism, Mr Carey responded,
“I can appreciate community safety requirements, but this is hideous … (and) the community safety aspect in itself is questionable. How many roads crossing creeks or raised roadways are there with no guardrails to prevent vehicles going over, e.g., Shannonvale?”DAVID CAREY
Mr Carey concluded, “Something more in keeping with the heritage and era of the bridge should be put there.”
The installation of the handrails poses a thought-provoking question – How far do Councils have to go in determining acceptable levels of public safety? One resident, who requested anonymity, lamented the new normal of having to employ “infrastructure to save us from ourselves,” ultimately creating “a landscape of ugliness.”
At the time of publication, only Cr Noli had responded to DNN emailed this morning.
📷1. Newly installed handrails – Natalie Johnson
📷2. Wedding – Blue Sky Photography / Before handrails – Douglas Shire Council
📷3. The history of Diggers Bridge – Douglas Shire Historical Society