If you’ve got it, flaunt it! Or at least use it. (HLD 419)

9 July 2021

One of the places I regularly walk my dog has some wonderful features and creatures.

There’s the big Swan River, named after the dolphins who frolic in it. No??? Ok, maybe it’s named after the black swans who are a fixture. There are dolphins though, but they just never got naming rights.

The local indigenous name for this river is Derbarl Yerrigan – which, according a few things I’ve read, could either mean literally ‘estuary river’, or ‘place of brackish or fresh water turtle’ relating to the Dreaming. Either way, it’s a significant stretch of water, not overly deep, and inhabited by a lot of black swans, the occasional dolphin, and sometimes people on kayaks.

It’s always amazed me that we don’t use our river in the same way other cities I’ve visited have utilised their waterways. On the city side they have created a quay with hotels and restaurants which is well utilised. There are occasional cafes of restaurants along the river, but by and large it’s just there.

Don’t get me wrong – there are some wonderful parks available for the community to use along our river. Huge swathes of land where people with dogs can exercise, cyclists can hurtle along designated pathways, children can delight in paddling in the water looking at jelly fish and dolphins and avoiding the black swans who may or may not be friendly – you’re never quite sure. There are pelicans, heaps of different types of bird life, and wonderful views to look at while you sit and drink your coffee.

It’s just a beautiful part of my city.

But if you asked people what the best part of Perth is, you would, as a stock standard answer, get ‘the beaches’, or possibly ‘Kings Park’.

You can’t argue about our beaches. Hand on my heart, they are the best beaches I’ve been to. In the world. White soft sand, clear water, waves and sometimes rocks. And not crammed with thousands of people like some other iconic beaches in Australia. Just pure uninterrupted serenity with views of the sunset.

And Kings Park is a justified attraction in our city. It’s one of the worlds largest inner city parks – 400 hectares (900 acres) of a mixture of botanical gardens and natural bushland sitting up on Mount Eliza, with magnificent views of the city. And the river…

Lately our local media and local government politicians have been actively searching for a way to better ‘brand’ our city. How to get more tourists interested in our remote part of the world.

They’ve got some ideas they are throwing about. One that keeps getting mentioned is a cable car experience, from the quay beside the river, up into Kings Park. There’s also the suggestion of building an indigenous cultural Museum in the city foreshore. Or maybe a giant quokka statue. Theme parks, fun fairs – you name it, a lot of ideas have been brought forward for discussion.

A week or so ago, while walking the dog near the river, I observed the following situation. There is a shared section of the path at the moment, where pedestrians and cyclists have to coexist. That shared section splits the area between the river and a lake which is favourite haunt of all sorts of bird life.

There were a couple of swans making their way back from the river towards the lake. But the path they had to cross was, quite frankly, very busy. There were the furious cyclists, annoyed at having to (temporarily) share this section of their path with pedestrians. There were pedestrians, bemused at having to duck and weave their way through the equivalent of a cycling formula one event, just to enjoy a walk by the river. There were dog walkers, only bothering with the path at all because the grass was quite wet after recent rains, and their dog is a bit of a princess who doesn’t like wet feet.

And trying to get from one side of this path to the other, were the swans. I stopped for a while (ok my dog was sniffing a light post with the intensity of a forensics officer) and observed the action. The swans made tentative steps towards the path, stopping and going back when they saw cyclists or pedestrians or dogs heading their way. They made four or five attempts to cross the path, until finally saw a break in the rush, and waddled their way safely across.

They waddled at an express pace the small distance to the lake. They lunched themselves in a visibly relieved fashion into the calm water….

And then FLEW further on to another part of the lake.

I did wonder whether or not they could have just flown to the lake to start with, and saved themselves the mental anguish of crossing the freeway of humanity that was the path???

Maybe, in trying to get a better branding for our city, we should just try actually using what we’ve got.

If we all visited our river, parks and beaches more often, money in the form of restaurants and cafes and fun fairs and cable cars would follow. We can’t sit back and wait for tourists to highlight what we’ve got.

I think I’ll start up a tour company, taking people for walks along the path between the river and lake. You can even hold my dogs leash for a small added fee. I know where the good coffee can be found, and I’m an expert on why swans take so long to cross a footpath.

That will bring the tourists in!

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