Fremantle’s iconic FERN community on High Street is being dismantled to make way for a potential solution to the area’s congestion issues.
Home to the Fremantle Environmental Resource Network for more than 20 years, members left the community’s garden and colourful communal houses for the last time on Tuesday.
They were quickly replaced by dozens of workers and security guards who are demolishing any sign of the group’s existence.
The community garden that once stood on the edge of the Fremantle Golf Course has now been flattened, and crews are working to clear the houses of asbestos and any items that were left behind.
FERN co-convener, Greg Hastings, said it’s been an emotional period for the tight-knit community.
“The actual last soupee and the clearing on Tuesday broke a lot of the board members,” he said.
“Three of us came down with colds, I’m still recovering.
“There’s a hole in a lot of the people, there’s a lot of people sad about this.”
The area is being cleared to replace the existing High Street and Stirling Highway intersection with a roundabout, designed to reduce congestion and improve safety in the high-traffic area.
David Langlands works nearby and said he supported the decision to move FERN out.
“It’s an interesting eyesore,” he said.
“It’s a little bit colourful but probably needs to be moved on.”
He said he was hopeful the construction would improve traffic along the road he travels almost daily.
“They need to try and do something, so it would be good to do that,” he said.
Members mourn loss
A self-described nomad, Renee McKie has called FERN home on-and-off for almost a decade.
Being involved as a member, a resident, and co-convener at different times, she said there was one key element that set the group apart.
“The community – being able to come to a space with people from all different walks of life, and everyone’s welcome and accepted,” she said.
“If you couldn’t afford a meal you could still get a meal, and then the next week you’d chuck in extra, plus you could also go down there and help, get involved if you wanted.”
Renee said she always enjoyed her time at FERN because of the diverse crowd it drew.
“Because it was so layered it fit so many different people and so many different demographics into that space,” she said.
“It would be music nights or drumming circles or vegan dinners or workshops or gardening, there were so many different things that you didn’t have to just be a gardener to come along.
“We used to have kindergarten kids come and walk through the gardens because there was a huge sandpit, or people with disabilities that just needed to get their hands in the dirt.”
Now running a permaculture business that grew from workshops at FERN, Renee said she doesn’t think the community will be replicated anywhere else.
“There’s individual things around Freo which would cover all of those things, but not one place that has them all, which made it really beautiful and unique,” she said.
Despite concerns about the group’s future, Greg remains hopeful FERN will rise again.
“We’re negotiating with the council to hopefully start up as soon as we possibly can for those people who are feeling completely lost that FERN is gone,” he said.
“We are determined to try and keep it going, and yes, we will.”