“Milestone moment”: Yarra pool a step closer

By David Schout

A swimmable pool on the Yarra River’s Northbank is a step closer after the City of Melbourne committed to “formally assessing” the ambitious project.

After endorsing draft plans for the 4km “Greenline”, Lord Mayor Sally Capp said it was “the appropriate time” to properly explore the pool proposal, which includes plans for a lap pool, kids pool and wetlands at Enterprize Park next to Melbourne Aquarium.

The project has been pushed for a number of years by community-led group Yarra Pools, with support from architects, designers and business owners determined to prove it as a viable vision for Melbourne.

President Felicity Watson said the council’s decision not only vindicated the group’s body of work, but the project’s merit.

“I think this decision really does justify all the work that we’ve undertaken,” she told CBD News.

“But it also goes to show that the work we’ve undertaken has shown that it is a credible plan. We’ve always been really interested in ensuring it’s something that’s achievable, and something that does fit within the strategic lens of local and state government. So, a lot of work has gone into that, and a lot of pro bono support by experts. What we really feel is that we have put together a credible case.”

Inspired by successful urban river swimming projects both globally and in Australia, the idea of a “swimmable Yarra” was first flagged in 2016.

However, to date, Yarra Pools had yet to make significant headway on proposals to the City of Melbourne. 

Ms Watson said the May 4 decision was a “milestone” for the project, and had been positively received.  

“It’s a project that people are really excited about. It ticks so many boxes — it has the potential to be transformative for Melbourne. So there were lots of happy people that have been involved in Yarra Pools, either at the moment or in the past because it’s definitely been a collective effort.”

Both the council and Yarra Pools believed the river’s Northbank was under-utilised and in need of reform.

The primary goal of the Greenline project (details on page 7) was to activate that stretch of the river, via a 4km green trail from Birrarung Marr to the Bolte Bridge.

The council now believed a pool could be part of that activation.

It resolved to “formally assess the merits of a project put forward by the community-led Yarra Pools association, to determine the feasibility of incorporating a swimmable Yarra project into the Greenline project in future, in this or another precinct”.

Despite confidence in the project, Ms Watson said it “definitely does need to go through that next level of rigour and assessment”.

She said open-air swimming was not only a healthy pastime, but provided an opportunity “to connect with the culture and history of place”.

“I think it’s something that’s really lacking in Melbourne. I lived in Sydney for a long time and there’s a whole culture of open-air swimming in Sydney — there are lots of open-air pools in the city. There’s Bondi Icebergs, there’s lots of ocean pools as well. And I think that’s something that’s really missing from the Melbourne landscape. I know some people say it’s a climate-based thing, but there are pools in northern Europe that are incredibly popular.”

The council committed to assessing the viability of the Yarra Pools plan in the “short term” •

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