Bunbury's Back Beach baths remembered as a "great folly"

RAY Repacholi was about six years old when he took his first swim in the Back Beach Salt Baths – but within about three years the structure was gone. 

Mr Repacholi remembered the baths, built in the mid 1930s for public use, as a “great folly” which was bound to fail right from the start. 

“It should never have been built there – in winter the waves were constantly smashing over it and wearing it away,” Mr Repacholi said. 

“There was an inlet pipe pumping water in from the ocean and in summer two blokes from the water board had to swim out and clear away all the seaweed from the filter almost every morning.”

Mr Repacholi said the baths could have been built up near Rocky Point, using the existing basalt rock as a natural structure. 

The 82-year-old, who spent his whole life in Bunbury but recently relocated to Augusta, said the concept worked very well in Sydney and he would like to see it return to his home city.  

His early Bunbury beach memories also included the installation of a double row of barbed wire along the sand from Hayward Street all the way around to the old timber jetty during World War II. 

We used to have to dig under the barbed wire if we wanted to go for a swim in the ocean.

Long-time Bunbury resident Ray Repacholi

“We used to have to dig under the barbed wire if we wanted to go for a swim in the ocean,” Mr Repacholi said. 

Bringing back the Back Beach baths has become a popular idea in recent years, with many people keen to be able to swim at the beach without the risk of a shark attack. 

A poll at bunburymail.com.au attracted almost 1000 votes in a week, with more than 95 per cent of voters keen to see the structure rejuvenated. 

City of Bunbury Mayor Gary Brennan said there had been no formal plans to bring back the baths in the last 12 months.

“Given the condition of the ruins, a complete new structure would be required and this would be preceded by a range of environmental and regulatory approvals,” Mr Brennan said. 

Despite the strong community support, Mr Brennan said the project would not be considered ahead of community priorities such as maintenance work to Hay Park facilities, the construction of the water playground and other elements of the Leschen-ault Inlet Master Plan.

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