Residents fight school land grab

Michael TraillAlbany Advertiser
Group of local residents opposed to Bethel School taking ownership of the park during School hours.
Camera IconGroup of local residents opposed to Bethel School taking ownership of the park during School hours. Credit: Laurie Benson/Picture: Laurie Benson, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Yakamia residents have been left livid at the prospect of losing a beloved and unique pocket of land in their suburb to the expansion of a private school.

By mail, ratepayers in proximity to Yakamia’s Worra Park last week received a joint survey by the City of Albany and Bethel Christian School to gather information on their usage of the park and feedback on a “possible alternative future” for the park.

An accompanying letter signed by Bethel principal Mim Butler indicates the school is considering options to expand into the park to accommodate additional students and “to provide additional recreational opportunities”.

The letter indicates the school would relocate the park’s playground, retain native vegetation “where possible” and developing sporting grounds for exclusive school use during school hours.

Ms Butler said the school would meet the costs of development and maintenance, while a possum-spotting survey conducted on tree canopy that covers most of the park did not reveal any possums.

A big contingent of Yakamia residents attended Tuesday night’s City of Albany council meeting to oppose the proposed expansion, while also refuting the accuracy of the possum-spotting survey

One resident who pressed the council on the matter was Alison McLernon, who “grew up in the park”, with her parents living in a property bordering the land for the past 44 years.

“I think the proposal is poor and contains misinformation,” she said. “There is a State-level sporting facility no more than two minutes walking distance from the school, so I see no need for them to take public park land.

“There are possums here, we’ve all seen them, my dad hand-feeds them from his backyard, so they’re here.”

Dave Taylor, who has lived in an adjoining property for the past 22 years, said the park was a well-loved family environment where he had watched his children grow up.

He did not want it to be lost to the wider community.

“I’m not against schools. I’m not against school kids playing here, they’ve been doing it for years,” he said. “But to turn it into a playing field would just entail too much.

“There would be major earthworks, major disruptions and they’d take all of the trees out.

“This is basically the only pocket in the Yakamia sub-division.”

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