Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Real Community Playspace

Finishing the year on a bright note. A few weeks ago my son and I visited a local community playspace. Most people from the region know about it to some degree, but for those of you not from the Newcastle area, or from overseas let me explain.
Several years ago one of the local government councils (Lake Macquarie City) has a purpose built playground for the children of the area that was so much more than the existing play equipment available elsewhere.

Although big compared to what was established beforehand, the initial project was just a starting point. What is there now is at least four times the size of the original playspace.

One of the great things about this space is that it has pretty much been an ongoing work. As ideas and concepts came to light the construct of the facility changed shape, both physically as it began to expand and metaphorically as its components took on a more natural, child-focused feel.

Gone are the multi-coloured climbing frames, plastic cubby houses and sterile equipment. Now the park is full of a variety of areas, from the water play section to a growing natural maze. There's a pirate ship, interconnected sand areas, loads of netting to climb, flying foxes, climbing walls, secret hideaways, slides, swings and a giant tower that has multiple ways to get to the top and a huge, twisting tunnel slide as the main way to get down.

It's a mark of the popularity of this marvellous space that despite the lake being literally 100 metres away, both children and adults alike throng to this area because of the diversity in what it offers. There's something for absolutely everyone. Parents with young babies, toddlers, older children, teens and adults all seems to have a ball. There are even loads of wheelchair/pram access areas and a swing available for those with mobility issues.

There's even a bike track that integrates road like features into it including signs, crossings and a fuel pump. I can picture schools bringing groups of children here for road safety lessons.

As great as all that I have said sounds, it's not what the park contains within that is the real appeal. Rather, it's the sense of community you gain as soon as you go through the gate. This probably began as a vision of the local council, but has grown into a truly community-orientated facility that reaches far beyond local government boundaries.

It claims to be a place that caters for 'all abiities' and that seems obvious right from the moment you enter. Just check out all the possibilities for risk taking on so many levels.

Other great features that might otherwise go unnoticed are the plants used for the maze are drought resistant flora native to the Lake Macquarie area, as well the recycled water for the water play component of the park.

I think what speaks volumes for the high regard in which this place is held by all is that there is absolutely no evidence of any graffiti, vandalism or other disrespect for the grounds and all that it contains. Rarely have I been able to say this of such a public space.

If you are ever in the Lake Macquarie area, Speers Point to be precise, you should definitely drop by and check this collection of experiences (the term park just doesn't seem to do it justice).

Until you do, or if you never get the chance, just take in the images. Not some of the best photography you'll ever come across, but they convey my message so much better than my words are able to.










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