The City of Ryde operates an amazing environmental education centre within the Field of Mars reserve. It’s a very popular destination, catering for school students, nature lovers and the general public. Even though a new boardwalk to give visitors easy access to the reserve had been planned for the area, it had never been completed.
The main challenges with this project were caused by the topography of the site and the dark, damp and swampy environment this unique topography had created over millennia. Because of the resulting environment we were limited with our options for material that would actually function here. The existing timber boardwalk had decayed and rotted away in many places and needed to be removed before we could commence construction. And because of the challenge of access through the National Park, we couldn’t simply roll in heavy machinery and get to work.
The City of Ryde council is highly experienced in dealing with projects like this, because much of its region lies within National Park. In choosing Fleetwood as their construction partner on this project, they were expressing their confidence and trust in our business, because of our track record of delivering similar complex solutions within sensitive surrounds.
Because the existing boardwalk had degenerated it had become a safety hazard, so Council decided to replace the whole structure. The focus of the Discovery sessions was mostly on how we’d remove the old boardwalk and quickly install a new one. This process needed to have no long-term impact on the surrounding environment and blend in with the existing wetland scenery.
The cool, moist conditions found within these gullies create the perfect habitat for some of the reserve’s animals like finches, wrens, whip birds and ringtail possums. But it makes the surfaces very hazardous for people like us.
Brainstorming the challenge with our Design-Led Engineers and Structural Specialists, we discovered that our partners at the Council wanted a highly durable, and low maintenance solution, that would provide firm grip in the wet and slippery conditions along the trail. But just as important, the boardwalk needed to blend into the surroundings and almost become ‘part of the natural environment’.
Fleetwood won a competitive tender process to design and construct the new walkway, as well as demolish the old one. For this project, we designed a boardwalk made for tight access within this environmentally sensitive location.
MarsTM is an incredibly economical structure to build and construct for either single or multi-span boardwalk requirements because it has spans of less than 4m.
For this environment, the product delivered a boardwalk that naturally blended in with the surroundings. And because it used durable materials, the MarsTM boardwalk could endure a constantly damp and sometimes flooded environment.
It’s in the ‘Detail’ section of our DE2 process that the project comes to life. At this stage, we’re typically creating prototypes to test materiality and construction techniques to ensure the client-partners needs can be met. And because the focus with this project was on the environmental challenges, we ensured the materials would deliver the highest quality.
The final solution was an 800m elevated riparian access structure, made almost entirely from fibreglass. This included the supports, headstocks, joists, and decking. The only non-fiberglass elements were the stainless-steel fixings and galvanised handrails.
It was necessary to develop cost-effective systems to install the structure. These included specialist piling tools that eliminated the need for a piling rig and an excavation machine to dig foundations.
Thanks to the careful design consideration from our team in the Design Engineering Hub, materials could be walked in and most works are done by hand. This eliminated the need for heavy machinery and minimised the construction impact on the sensitive ecosystem.
Students and visitors can now walk the entire length of the reserve without harming the natural habitat. The boardwalk has been built to withstand the elements, and on several occasions since installation the structure has had to cope with intense flooding.
The Council was clear on its environmental protection objectives – the project required a very light environmental footprint, with minimal impact to the surrounding area. With careful planning our team excelled in this challenge and exceeded the Council’s expectations. We are happy to report that our solution has had almost no ecological impact on the wetland and surrounding areas.
Aesthetically, the design blends in beautifully with the environment, and in terms of functionality it delivers that much needed safety aspect by providing good grip in wet conditions.
Regarding maintenance, well, very little is required. This is a highly durable and robust solution that will require minimal maintenance.
The City of Ryde were so happy with this project, that they’ve asked us to install five similar structures in other areas for them.
Part of our works was to pull out the old decaying boardwalk and replace it with the new low maintenance structure you can see here. The project required a very light environmental footprint, with minimal impact to the surrounding area. You can even see here, how narrow the corridor is between the river and the rock, and the way the boardwalk has been cut around the rock to suit.
The City of Ryde Council has its own internal designers, and their vision for this project was to create a boardwalk that, wherever possible, ‘disappeared’ from view.
This vision created the visual, aesthetic and environmental imperative for the project – i.e. to deliver a simple means of transport around this delicate environmental area, so much so that it became part of the environment. As you can see in this picture, you don’t have to stray too far from the boardwalk for it to be lost in the natural flora, because it blends in so well. It’s a great outcome for Council!
The MarsTM boardwalk is a versatile solution. Built to cater for pedestrians and cyclists, pretty much anyone can use this popular path network.
Fleetwood have delivered on every promise they’ve made. They are a very professional company who are excellent at delivering solutions. They have a very planned and professional approach to their projects. We are always confident of their projects being carried out correctly and on program because our relationship is so good.Greg Norsa Coordinator of Urban Landscape Ryde City Council