Boat ramp setback will hold up riverfront redevelopment

Residents have noticed recent progress, but Murray Bridge council plans for a new boat ramp at Sturt Reserve have hit a major snag.

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A key part of Murray Bridge’s riverfront upgrade has been delayed, the council has revealed.

A new, wider boat ramp was to have been built at the southern end of Sturt Reserve this year, at the end of Jaensch Road.

But a survey recently found the riverbank there was still at risk of slumping, a decade after the drought that caused banks to collapse all along the Murray.

Council chief executive officer Michael Sedgman said there was “undermining” at the site to a depth of 25 metres, and that nothing could be built there.

“Geotechnical investigations have identified that the slumping issue at that end of Sturt Reserve is worse than we thought,” he said.

“The very clear advice of our independent engineers is that that location is totally inappropriate on the basis that there would be a significant escalation in costs.

“Whatever we put up would be at risk (of collapsing into the river).”

Frustrating as the setback was, though, Mr Sedgman was glad the issue had been found before construction started.

“I’d confess a certain level of frustration ... but importantly we had the appropriate due diligence process in place to identify these circumstances before we progressed the ground break around a design that may have potentially failed,” he said.

“That would have been more than frustrating – it would have been quite embarassing.”

Nearby residents such as David O’Brien had noticed the recent – and ongoing –surveying activity in the area.

Mr O’Brien said he had moved in since slumping was first a problem, but that he didn’t mind where the boat ramp went, so long as Sturt Reserve ended up as “one of the best parks in Australia” like he thought it would.

“There’ll be changes (to the plan) along the way, that’s normal,” he said.

“But having (the surveyors) down here, people can see something’s actually happening … it’s a visible positive.

“It doesn’t matter where (the boat ramp) goes as long as it’s easily accessible and secure.”

Councillors will consider what to do next at a meeting on July 13.

The decision they make will have consequences for the rest of the riverfront upgrade.

The council promised in 2018 that the new ramp would be finished before the smaller one near the tennis courts was removed, clearing the way for that area to be done up.

Still, other work is progressing, including construction of a new regional rowing centre next to Murray Bridge and Districts Community Club and a war memorial beneath Wharf Hill.

The pontoon at which the Proud Mary docks is also undergoing some safety-related repairs.

The council originally agreed to upgrade boat ramp facilities at Sturt Reserve as a condition of the the SA Ski Racing Championships’ return to Murray Bridge in 2014.

The new boat ramp cannot come fast enough – a report last month suggested Murray Bridge's other skiing areas were already full to overflowing, and that new riverfront hubs needed to be opened up at Toora or Swanport.

Photos of David O’Brien and of a section of riverbank affected by slumping: Peri Strathearn.