THE land earmarked for development on Schmitt Road may well be valued at $1.5 million by the Western Australian Planning Commision, but for one long-time Kalamunda resident and her daughter, its value far exceeds any dollar amount.
Norma Walsh was born in Gooseberry Hill and has spent most of her life – the last 56 years at least – in Kalamunda.
After retiring in 1986, Norma and her late husband Max began trail walking every day before breakfast.
Sometimes they went to Pickering Brook, sometimes they ended up in Gooseberry Hill, but the Railway Heritage Trail on Schmitt Road was always a feature.
However in January 2017, Max succumbed to dementia, passing away at the age of 88.
Norma said she had talked with Max about their eventual end before he had dementia, and they were both firm in where their final resting place should be – near a bench, about 100m from the Heritage Trail entrance on Schmitt Road.
“This is where we chose, this is before he got dementia,” she said.
“He said don’t put me in a box, put me in the bush, let me be free.
“We chose this very spot where we are now.”
In February 2017, the family gathered to spread Max’s ashes on the trail he loved.
Daughter Jenny Bellani, a teacher at Woodbridge Primary School, said the family regularly went out to the site with a cup of tea and an Anzac biscuit, two of Max’s favourites, to pay their respects to their late father.
They were there just a few weeks ago on October 11 to celebrate what would have been Max’s 90th birthday.
Norma told Echo News that her family gained permission from the City of Kalamunda to spread her husband’s ashes at the site.
However she did not know the City technically did not own the land, and she only recently found out that the last resting place of her beloved husband is set to be subdivided and sold by the WAPC.
“Nobody told us any of that and when I found out, it’s just terrible,” she said.
“This trail is beautiful, it’s peaceful and they’re going to develop it, my husband is here.”
Jenny said it made no sense, not only because her father is there but also because of the popularity of the trail.
“All the hikers, and the bikers, they come here on these trails and they have a coffee at the cafes, they might go to the pub when they’re done, it supports the community.
“I mean this area was my playground as a child, and I bring my kids here, a lot of people do.
“Schools are big on nature play at the moment and this is a ready-made area for nature play.”
Both Norma and Jenny are hopeful the City of Kalamunda will take the option suggested to them by Kalamunda MLA Matthew Hughes, to take out a loan from the State Treasury to buy the land from the WAPC and zone it as parks and recreation.
“They’d be absolutely mad if they didn’t take that option,” Jenny said.
“It just makes so much sense.”
As Norma approaches her 89th birthday, she knows what she would like done once her time comes – provided the land is not developed.
“I want to be here with my husband.
“We talked about it Max and I, we both wanted to be in the bush and this is where we picked.
“I hope my family can come here one day and say that’s where grandma and grandad are.”
A City of Kalamunda spokesperson said they were contacted by a representative of the family in late Jauary 2017 in regards to what was required to scatter ashes within the City.
But the family did not advise they were planning to scatter ashes on WAPC land.
However the City did confirm that if ownership of the land was transfered to the City, they would guarantee the land would not be subject to development.