Blast Furnace Park Access, Safety and Interpretation Upgrades
Lithgow City Council is seeking public comment on a proposal to undertake significant works at Blast Furnace Park to improve visitor enjoyment and appreciation of the site and to improve visitor safety. This project has been made possible by grant funding and a matching commitment from Council.
The Lithgow Blast Furnace Park was Australia’s first major iron works. It is a significant landmark reminder of the industrial past of Lithgow, as well as a highly visible and publically accessible remnant of the early iron and steel industry in Australia.
The Blast Furnace sits within the Lithgow cultural and heritage precinct including Historic Eskbank Station, Eskbank House and Museum, Lithgow history Avenue Sculpture Trail, Lake Pillans Wetlands and State Mine. Council is seeking to harness the potential of Blast Furnace to promote cultural heritage tourism by incorporating the Blast Furnace Park site into a heritage trail linking these key heritage sites.
Significant numbers of people visit Blast Furnace to enjoy its striking industrial and natural landscape, located right within an urban area. It is a popular location for photography and other recreational and cultural activities.
Being an industrial ruin adjoining residential areas and frequently visited by young people and children, the site poses public safety risks including confined spaces, escarpments, uneven ground, holes, pits and tunnels and climb and impalement risks.
The challenge has been to consider ways to improve visitor safety without compromising public enjoyment and appreciation of the heritage values and recreation opportunities of the site.
To this end, Council commissioned a study in 2014 to consider these issues and to develop a plan for the upgrade works.
This study highlighted the excellent opportunities of the site for interpretation of the steel industry in Lithgow and to interpret the former layout and footprints of Lithgow’s industrial heritage in general. The study also found that Blast Furnace contains many significant relics including building and equipment ruins and has archaeological potential for future research.
The study recommended that due to the significance of the heritage remains, risks should be managed by low impact works which will enable visitors to enjoy the view and interpret most parts of the site while restricting access to the highest risk areas only.
This will be achieved in stages through:
- Remedial and conservation works to the Davey Engine House, Compressor Cooling House and Railway Support Piers to prevent further decay and to render these structures safe for close inspection by visitors.
- Fencing some high risk areas while enabling close proximity viewing through fenced platform walks and viewing platforms to enable visitors to pass through the Davey Engine room and around the blast furnace foundations and Bosch skull.
- A new viewing platform on coal stage hill overlooking the site.
- Covering holes, pits and tunnels with steel open grates while allowing for them to be unlocked for archaeological research or guided tours.
- Restricting access to escarpments
- Limited removal of rubble and impalement risks
- New interpretive signage. An important part of the upgrade works will be inclusion of a detailed interpretative strategy so that visitors can navigate, understand and interpret the site.
- Upgrade of the carpark and improved pedestrian movement between the railway platform and the ruins.
- Picnic facilities
- Future provision of toilets.
Visitors will be able to move around the site in an interesting manner, where paths are clearly defined. Clear demarcation and signage will alert the visitors to the risks of entering fenced off areas.
Blast Furnace is listed on the State Heritage register so works will be undertaken to minimise impact on its heritage and visual values and to meet state heritage requirements.
Accessibility is an important consideration. Wherever practical, accessibility for people with varying levels of mobility has been incorporated into the plans through accessible ramps and pathways and signage for people with visual impairment.
As the full implementation of the concept plan will require more funds than are currently available, Council will progressively undertake the works.
Council is seeking public comment on these plans. Comments should be provided in writing by Friday 26 June 2015 to Council either by email or post to:
Lithgow City Council
PO Box 19
Lithgow NSW 2790
Copies of this proposal are on display at Council’s Administration Centre, 180 Mort Street Lithgow and in Council’s Libraries.
For further information, contact Matthew Johnson on 6354 9999.