Heritage trail plan back on track

Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
Frenchman Bay Association’s Richard Vogwill and Max Angus with the ruins of the whaling station.
Camera IconFrenchman Bay Association’s Richard Vogwill and Max Angus with the ruins of the whaling station. Credit: Shannon Smith

A stalled vision that would showcase the unique and “largely unknown” history of Frenchman Bay is back on the agenda, with the City of Albany putting the $380,000 heritage trail plan out for public comment.

Albany’s H+H Architects completed a draft feasibility study for the proposed Frenchman Bay Heritage Trail in 2015 on behalf of the Frenchman Bay Association.

After consultation with Noongar elders, the City of Albany council approved the feasibility study and concept plan in October, 2017, before the project was postponed indefinitely.

But the plan is now back in the spotlight after the City called for public submissions on Monday and scheduled a community information session for Sunday.

The proposed trail would loop along Whalers Beach through bushland, with viewing platforms and interpretative signs for historical landmarks.

One of the landmarks is a freshwater spring which was used to restock drinking water for ocean voyages.

The spring was first charted by Captain George Vancouver in 1791 and later dammed.

It was vital for navigators, whalers and residents of the town itself.

The Heritage Council of WA states that in 1827, Louis de Sainson painted a meeting between indigenous people and the sailors of the Astrolabe collecting fresh water at Frenchman Bay.

Whalers Beach is also home to the remains of the Norwegian Whaling Station, completed in 1914 before the outbreak of World War I.

There are also wrecks close to shore, such as the Elvie and the Rip.

The FBA is concerned the history of Frenchman Bay will be lost if it does not become a point of pride in Albany. Member Max Angus said in the group’s view, there were no serious impediments to making the concept a reality.

“We needed this study to present to stakeholders, otherwise it would seem all airy-fairy,” he said.

“Some people have been away or committed on other projects and now seems the right time to move forward on it.”

Despite having pushed the plan for five years, Mr Angus said the FBA only wanted to go ahead with it if there was strong community support. “(The information session) is being organised by the City officers to ensure that there has been wide community consultation before the project is given the green light,” he said.

“If the proposal is widely considered, people are bound to come up with ideas that, if adopted, could make it better.

“It is going to take a lot of work from interested members of the community to make it happen.”

Mr Angus said there were no signs pointing to the existence of the whaling station constructed by Norwegian sailors, yet it was a huge complex.

“This 40-minute walking trail will explain all this and much more on high-class signs,” he said.

“It should be a great drawcard for Albany people and tourists.

“This project is really for the whole Albany community, not only the residents who live out that way.

“There is a tremendous amount of history packed into that small area around Whalers Beach in Frenchman Bay.

“We want this to be a world-class trail and we will only achieve what we want if we have stakeholders behind us.” He said the FBA was eager to move from the ideas phase to the implementation phase.

The community information session will start at 1.30pm on Sunday at the South Coast Progress Hall.

The City’s public comment period closes on August 30.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails