Walsingham saga ends with Pretty Beach opening
The Pretty Beach Community Preschool will be officially opened on Sunday, September 19.
The local pre-school, which was awarded runner-up at the Keep Australia Beautiful Do the Right Thing Waste Minimisation Award for its eco-friendly design, has been two decades in the making, according to preschool director Ms Kim Chippindale.
"Local architect Milosh Obradovic (Site Studio) spent numerous hours working with the preschool committee to come up with what can only be described as an amazing facility for local children," Ms Chippindale said.
"The building is situated behind Pretty Beach Public School on the site of the former school master's residence and includes materials from the original cottage.
"The design concept is based on the well known children's book Where The Wild Things Are and includes floor- to-ceiling poles that have been wrapped with tree trunks to replicate forest trees.
"The playground was designed by local landscape architect David Duncan of Aspect Studio who, with help from Luke Bradstreet from Landscape Construction, has developed a creative external environment which includes a vegetable garden that the children help plant and maintain."
Ms Chippindale said the project cost in excess of $950,000, with $300,000 coming from capital works funding from Community Services NSW and the balance from fundraising activities, community donations and other Local and State Government grants.
"Without the endless hours of work from staff, volunteer management committees and community members, the transformation of the building from vision to reality would not have been possible," Ms Chippindale said.
"The new preschool has been in the pipeline since the inception of Walsingham in August, 1989, when locals obtained a lease from the local Catholic Church parish to operate from its church at Wagstaffe.
"This was to be a temporary measure until a new site was found.
"Between 1997 and 2000 the preschool was extremely close to relocating to Empire Bay Dr at Bensville when the site fell through at the last minute.
"Gosford Council then suggested land it owned in Maitland Bay Dr at Killcare Heights which was explored between 2001 and 2005 but after two failed applications to have the land rezoned, the site was abandoned.
"Things were looking very grim for the preschool with the thought of either folding or moving to the Woy Woy Peninsula when a site directly behind Pretty Beach Public School, where the old principal's quarters were located, was suggested.
"The preschool committee began negotiations with the NSW Department of Education which, and in 2007, finally gave a commitment to support the idea.
"Plans were drawn up and council approvals obtained and work finally started on the new Pretty Beach Community Preschool in early 2009."
Mc Chippindale said after years of hard work and dedication, the local community could now celebrate what really has been a "Herculean achievement".
"When I reflect on the past 10 years and my involvement in the preschool's relocation, I have to say that nothing about the process was 'easy'," Ms Chippindale said.
"This makes the fact that we are here today operating from such a fantastic facility so amazing and an absolute credit to the persistence and dedication of past volunteer management committees, previous directors, parents and the broader community."
Preschool committee president Mr Angus Kell agreed and said the official opening would be an "incredible achievement" for the local community.
"There were many times, even up to the commencement of the building works, when we thought the project may not get off the ground," Mr Kell said.
"With affordable childcare being an increasing problem, the new preschool building is confirmation that affordable childcare can be provided within a high quality environment."
Mr Kell said the new Pretty Beach Community Preschool was now expanding at a rapid rate, with families from around the district - as far as Ettalong, Umina and Patonga - all vying for a place for their preschool children.
The building will be officially opened on September 19 from 11am with celebrations starting at 10.30am including entertainment for the children and a sausage sizzle for all members of the public to come along and enjoy while seeing the "amazing local achievement".