A City of Ballarat councillor and former mayor has condemned plans for a shared-use path winding through Sturt Street's median garden as "vandalism".
Councillor Mark Harris said the proposed path would destroy gardens and ruin the effect of the open air sculpture gallery.
The final plans have not yet been released, as community consultation, through Regional Roads Victoria, is still open until September 27.
Right now, between Dawson Street and Pleasant Street, the outer edges of the median gardens have a gravel or asphalted path.
Cr Harris, mayor from 2011 to 2012, said the gardens were an important part of Ballarat, and he failed to see the benefit of the path shown in concept art.
"We're conscious of its heritage, its symmetry, its beauty, really - and it's a fundamental part of what Ballarat is, it's our great boulevard and we don't want to see it mucked up," he said.
"I travel every day on a bike, and it's basically only me - you can say build it and they will travel, but I don't think it offers a safety alternative for kids going to school, if it did, it'd be fine, but we've got Eyre Street and we've got Mair Street both sides.
"It just seems to be poorly thought out."
The community consultation on the plan so far had not been good enough, he said, as people were expected to comment on a concept plan instead of sharing ideas before work had begun.
"It was never a consultation about the management, true consultation starts at a very primary level, not when the finished form was here," he said.
"Really, it is a once in 50 or 100-year type change, long after I'm dead it'll be there and people will be wondering 'what is this about?', this non-used, recreational path they put through the most heritage-laden, beautiful aesthetic that the city's got."
He described the solution as fixing a problem the city didn't have.
"(It's) resolving a problem a) you don't have and b), in my own view, is tantamount to vandalism of that central park - you don't want it," he said.
However, not all councillors are against the path - Councillor Belinda Coates said it was better to wait until the final plans were released.
"It's been a long consultation process, as all the councillors are well aware, it's been an extremely long and thorough process of discussion," she said.
"Something getting really lost in the discussion is shared pathways are incredibly important for social inclusion, for older people and people with a disability who face challenges navigating the CBD."
A City of Ballarat spokesperson said in a statement no formal approval is required by council in relation to the Regional Roads Victoria-led project, but council had been briefed on the plan before it was made public.
A spokesperson for Regional Roads Victoria said the organisation had been working with the City of Ballarat since 2017.
"Two council representatives were part of the public reference group that recently identified the centre median of Sturt Street between Pleasant and Dawson streets as the preferred location for a shared user path," they said in a statement.
"Under the group's proposal, the path would move between the centre of the median and the outer edges to ensure no impact on existing trees, monuments or statues.
"We've shared artist's impressions of the proposed path and are encouraging the community to share their thoughts, while we're also continuing to work with Council, arborists and heritage advisors to develop detailed designs.
"We want to ensure that any proposal would be sympathetic to the Sturt Street gardens and their heritage significance."
As well as the City of Ballarat, Sturt Street Traders Group, and the Ballarat RSL, Health Services, Heritage Advisory Committee, and Bicycle Users Group have all been included in consultation on the design.
State Minister for Roads Jaala Pulford encouraged people to have their say, as public consultation is still open.
"These upgrades are all about boosting safety for kids riding to school, mums and dads pushing their prams and locals getting about Ballarat," she said in a statement.
"We continue to talk to the community and local council about designs for the proposed Sturt Street bike path, and I encourage people to jump online and have their say."
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