By Grace Frost
A Broadford man has expressed his disheartenment over his hometown’s fragmentary network of footpaths, which he has been left to battle on a mobility scooter for more than a decade.
After Collingwood’s Victorian Wheelchair Football League captain Ben Jankovski brought attention to Wallan’s wheelchair inaccessibility in June, Phillip Chandler stressed the issue extended even further north in the Mitchell Shire.
Mr Chandler said he noticed how disjointed and incomplete – and in some cases non-existent – Broadford’s footpaths were when he first started using a mobility scooter 12 years ago.
“I started making mental notes of where footpaths were and weren’t so I could plan how to get around the town, and after a while, it started to become difficult to keep track of,” he said.
“I started sketching a rough diagram of the part of Broadford I live in, and that evolved into a proper map of the whole town.
“There are quite a few isolated sections of footpaths, and some streets have none at all.”
Mr Chandler said he was often inconvenienced when navigating Broadford, left to travel on the road with oncoming traffic when on his way to the doctor, shops and his parents’ home.
“Where there are no footpaths or they’re not accessible, I have to travel on the road, and some of the roads don’t have a formed shoulder, so instead of being well to the left away from the traffic, I’m out in the firing line,” he said.
With footpaths stopping mid-street and gravel edges of roads making scooter usage difficult, Mr Chandler submitted his map of Broadford to Mitchell Shire Council in May 2021 to encourage the prioritisation of footpath development.
“It’s been over two years since I submitted the map to council, and I never heard anything from them,” Mr Chandler said last month.
“I made an enquiry earlier this year about it, and the staff member on the front desk couldn’t find any record of my map being submitted […], and advised me to resubmit it, which I did on April 11 .”
More than three months after his second submission, Mr Chandler said in early July he was still yet to receive any communication from council.
Only after the Review contacted council about the issue did Mr Chandler receive a response on July 18.
Mitchell Shire Council chief executive Brett Luxford said council could not locate Mr Chandler’s initial submission.
“Unfortunately, council was unable to locate Mr Chandler’s submission from 2021, however, he kindly brought it to our customer and library service centre recently,” he said.
“Council also met with Mr Chandler this week to go through his map and identify new missing links and issues he may have with access in the town.
“We are keen to continue working with the community to identify and prioritise these works as access around our townships is vital to the community.”
Mr Luxford said council’s annual Footpath Missing Link Program, aiming to identify key missing links in the shire’s towns and prioritise the links based on location, use and demand, currently identified almost 13 kilometres of missing links in Broadford.
“Council has committed $250,000 to missing footpath links for Broadford in the current budget and $540,000 overall to the program,” he said.
“New missing footpath links are added and prioritised as they are identified by council officers or the community.”
Mr Chandler said while he waited for a response from council, he had seen some development of footpaths in the town north of the railway line to address foot traffic.
But he said vast improvement was still needed to make his and residents’ travels safer.
“I put up with it because I don’t have much choice but it would be much better if I didn’t have to,” he said.
“I’ve noticed that there are several mobility scooter users around Broadford, so there would be quite a few people who benefit from [footpaths] beyond me.”
Community members can report poor quality footpaths using the Report It Tool on council’s website or by calling 5734 6200.
Council’s meeting documents from when the Missing Link Program went to council in 2021 can be accessed here.
View the Missing Link’s Program on council’s interactive map here.