Blue Mountains City Council will restore a bridge to Red Gum Park after flood damage

Bullaburra's Red Gum Park Bridge was damaged beyond repair in February and is one of a number of sites - like the Charles Darwin Walk and Leura Cascades - now closed and awaiting funding.

Last year Blue Mountains City Council assessed the bridge and undertook remedial work to extend its life and ensure pedestrian safety.

Site blocked off: (From left) Trent Sandford with Ryan, Isabella, Julian, Owen, Lou Pravdacich, as well as Isla, Tyson and Ward 2 Councillor Romola Hollywood.

Site blocked off: (From left) Trent Sandford with Ryan, Isabella, Julian, Owen, Lou Pravdacich, as well as Isla, Tyson and Ward 2 Councillor Romola Hollywood.

But the once-in-50-year rainfall event and flash flooding in February caused irreversible damage to the footings and structural elements. It is one of many damaged assets after a year of natural disasters. A council spokeswoman said that more than 330 visitor facility assets, including footbridges, boardwalks, tracks and stairs were damaged by the 2019-20 bushfires and 2020 flooding.

Ward 2 Councillor Romola Hollywood said she is pleased by a recent council announcement that the Bullaburra bridge on the south side of the village in Boronia Road will be rebuilt. She put in a request in August, on behalf of residents, to see the popular through-track restored.

"We know these trails are even more important during COVID-times, when we are staying closer to home but still need to exercise and enjoy the benefits of the open air and bushwalking," she said.

Resident Lou Pravdacich, who first alerted the councillor to the issue, said residents "welcome council's commitment to rebuild the bridge, but we really need a timeframe. Otherwise, we are worried Bullaburra might just get forgotten".

"It is also frustrating because the main access to the bushwalk is from Boronia Road where most people live. From that entrance, we head down the path over the bridge into the valley and picnic area. The bridge is a really important connection through Red Gum Park. With the bridge closed and with little kids, we are having to drive around to De Quency Road which isn't ideal as it means we are getting in our car."

Council CEO Rosemary Dillon said an engineering assessment found the current bridge was no longer fit for use and could not be restored so it was closed to protect the public.

"Council currently has an unprecedented and unforeseen backlog of infrastructure renewal and repairs," Dr Dillon said.

"While the storms were declared a natural disaster, only essential public infrastructure is covered under natural disaster funding. Bushland walking track and fire trail assets are not."

Dr Dillion said council is "continuing to negotiate with insurers to assess what is covered for the many damaged tracks and trails, and the outcome of this will determine a timeframe for the replacement of Red Gum Park bridge".

Until a replacement can be built, council has advised the alternate track access is via De Quency Road and Noble Street.

Another resident Trent Sandford said there were "many young families now living in Bullaburra and this walk is really important. During the height COVID-19, this bush trail was a life saver for the local children and families. The bridge needs to be replaced as it's essential for the walk as a whole. We really hope the bridge can be fixed soon".

Many high use sites require expensive and urgent work, including one million dollars for the clean-up and repairs at the Charles Darwin Walk and hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix Leura Cascades.

Cr Hollywood said council was "continuing to make representations to state and federal government for financial assistance to fix the Charles Darwin Walk at Wentworth Falls and other trails that were also extensively damaged during the torrential February storms".