Rethinking play in a community

Braidwood has been contemplating and debating for some time the placement of a skate park. Given my interest in the cultural potential of play, I wrote about this discussion of skateboarding.

In a first post (link) in July 2015, I argued “we are discussing the centrality of children and their play in our community. These discussions are encouraging us to reflect on the town’s heritage status”. I thought this dynamic between play and conversation would lead to some conversations about what we valued. At that time I hoped the decision to support the skate park might place it in the central location of Ryrie Park.

I was taken by the proposal that young people could manage this space and enable skating and scooting to flourish with town people and with visitors and promote intergenerational play. I understood that many of my colleagues would be nervous about such a location.

A month later (link) I listened at a public meeting to a skate park designer, Jason McNamee , discuss consultation and design. I was particularly interested to hear what he had to say about what had happened in Peterborough, South Australia. The town’s skateboard facilities are located at the end of Main Street, and “the facility caters for beginners right through to challenging the skills of advanced skaters”.

Their process started with the Peterborough Youth Advisory Committee’s presentation in 2010 to the district council about why the youth of the town needed one. The skate park was completed in 2014.

I thought this was an important example to explore and I ended up in conversations with many colleagues about the prominence of the park. After lots of public discussion it was decided not to locate the skate park in Ryrie Park (link). The Recreation Ground was proposed as an alternative venue.

I regret not giving this option sufficient thought. My main concern at that time was the visibility of youth in the centre of town. I have come to realise that the Recreation Ground has a win-win potential. There is plenty of space to build a skate park with ease of access and, if needed, parking nearby. New lights have been installed. There are toilets on site too.

With appropriate management, I do see the Recreation Ground as a play centre for the community. I am particularly interested in how families might access this resource with skateboarding and scooting gaining participants.

The Recreation Ground has undergone two upgrades. The first saw “a new amenities block with a multipurpose room and new canteen, new BMX track and construction of a sports court that can be used for basketball and netball” (link). The second stage aimed “to improve site drainage and extension of fields to allow additional sports and safer conditions” (link). The work also included improvements in car park facilities.

News of the upgrades has arrived as the town restarts its conversation about the location of the skate park. It has prompted a complete change in my thinking about the park and visibility.

There is a suggestion that McKellar Park be considered as a venue for the park and there is a Your Voice survey online provided by the Council. The site notes “we’d like the community’s comments on the preferred design and location. The construction of the skate park is not currently funded and we will explore funding opportunities once a preferred design and location is selected” (link).

The other venue to be considered is the Recreation Ground.

I admit to being very confused by the inclusion of McKellar. I feel that it does not have any of the criteria used to debate a presence in Ryrie Park. Once again we are dealing with a peripheral location with no infrastructure to support the facility.

I do think McKellar Park is one of the gems of the town. It works wonderfully at present as a space for a variety of groups and in recent months the exercise facility there has been used increasingly by all age groups. It is a vital part of the local ecology and a vital green space.

All this has led me firmly to choose the Recreation Ground as the preferred location for the skate park. It is a large space and can deal with a permanent, imaginative concrete structure. I feel that a skate park would do irreparable damage to McKellar Park at a time when we need to hold on to such places (link).

This has been an important decision for me. I have two vested interests that I need to declare. Firstly, I regard myself as a supporter of play in our community and am keen to promote participation in skateboarding and scooting. I organised my first skateboard club in 1975 and have taken an interest in skateboarding ever since. Secondly, I live around the corner from McKellar Park and in the last five years I have been able to use the park and observe its inter-generational use. I have come to admire it as a green space too and have delighted in the eco culture in such a small space.

In summary, I am keen to promote skateboarding at the Recreation Ground. It meets the criteria we need. With appropriate management and support, skateboarding can flourish there. I see the connections with families and other sports very significant. It is for me the win-win our community seeks. A community at peace with itself through deference.

Photo Credits

[skateboard] (RHiNO NEAL, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Local youth (The Flinders News)

Ground Stage 1 (QPRC)

The Bushrangers (QPRC)


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