Proposition 1 – a Flat Line/High Line for Fremantle?
New York’s the High Line – a quite astonishing public park for walkers in the midst of the mayhem of that metropolis – has, in a few short years, become a must-see destination.
Through an inspired citizen initiative, a disused railway line that wends its way, a storey or so above ground, through what had once been the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, was converted into an urban park. Not wide and heavily treed, but skinny and covered by self-seeded grasses and shrubs, it winds its way between offices and apartment buildings.
The High Line courses between Gansevoort and West 34 Streets around 12th Avenue. It has its own website – thehighline.org. Walking the High Line gets you away from the city rush. You also get to see a part of the city you mightn’t otherwise visit and to see Manhattan from a completely different perspective, away from the skyscrapers.
A great place to start or finish the High Line is at Gansevoort Street, right next to the brilliant Whitney Museum of American Art, an art gallery you can also visit without physically being there, at Whitney.org.
Now, Fremantle could do worse than to emulate the High Line, creating an urban park getaway close to the centre of the city and a tourist attraction to boot. New York wouldn’t mind, after all imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. But we might have to rename it, perhaps, in the absence a disused urban area above ordinary ground level, as the ‘Flat Line’.
But where to put our High Line/Flat Line? Two immediate possibilities come to mind, one achievable in the short term at relatively little expense you would think compared to the other, the other requiring longer term planning and perhaps a little more ambitious.
The first option would involve the reworking of the existing Fisherman’s Wharf/South Beach walking and cycling path. Some widening would be required to separate walkers from cyclists and to create passing lanes for bikes. Some imaginative landscaping would also be needed to create an urban park setting. It would also provide a wonderful alternative route to busy South Terrace, South Fremantle. (If the adjacent railway line were ever to be closed, it would also make the perfect High/Flat Line.)
The second, more ambitious option would involve more planning over a longer term. It would see the High/Flat Line venture between North Fremantle/West End of Fremantle, via either the railway bridge or the old traffic bridge. The railway bridge would, in scenic terms, be best being so close to the harbour. The pathway might course along near the port itself, taking in port views, the shipping, the harbour precinct, and the heritage Fremantle cityscape. The potential for development of the old traffic bridge into a highline style pedestrian thoroughfare was flagged by the City in its Freo 2029 vision document, and was raised again by Mayor Pettit after the old traffic bridge was closed for days for repairs in 2016.
Each option has its own attributes. What additional options can you think of?
Perhaps, like California, we the citizens of the ‘republic’ of Fremantle should by public petition be able put up, and vote into law, propositions like this.