When Chris Steel grew up in Torrens, there was no basketball court. But the new and improved playground, next to the local shops, features a half-court, as well as a climbing web and other equipment – and the youthful Minister for City Services showed off his skills to advantage, slam-dunking and shooting basketballs into a hoop yesterday.
Torrens is the first of five new play spaces that will be ready for the summer holidays. Four years ago, Torrens P&C member Jennifer Maher said, there was only a slide and two swings, surrounded by empty bushland. But the ACT Government has spent $335,000 on the park – part of a $1.5 million investment in new play spaces across Canberra.
“Some of the play spaces in existing suburbs that have been here for decades when I grew up needed a refresh,” Mr Steel said.
“I came from the early childhood sector, so I know that these play spaces are critical. We need to provide adequate spaces for children to engage with nature, but also to play safely in their local community.”
At the park opening on Wednesday morning, the Torrens play space was already buzzing with activity. Children clambered to the summit of the spider’s web, whirled round on spinners, and leaped across log steppers. Old favourites like the slide and swings have been kept.
The park was developed in consultation with the local community; Ms Maher and her P&C members told Mr Steel during the 2016 election campaign that the playground facility needed to be upgraded. She and her children – Charlotte, 6, and Lily, 9 – are delighted with the result.
“It’s amazing, because my kids can grow into it,” Ms Maher said. “Lily is still jamming herself on that swing, but she won’t be for much longer. She’s quite into sports, so the basketball hoops are an amazing addition. They can ride their bikes around here.” And her kids love balancing on the steppers.
The revamped playground also benefits local businesses.
“A local play space close to a shop helps to revitalise that important community hub,” Mr Steel said.
Although the play space is next to the shopping centre and the café, it was hidden away by bushland.
“Landscaping has removed some of the shrubbery that closed it off from the shops, so that parents can grab a coffee and watch their children playing at the same time,” Mr Steel said.
The Higgins, Narrabundah and Richardson play spaces will be opened over the next week; all have been designed in close consultation with locals. Higgins has a dirt bike track, a spinner, and a picnic shelter; Narrabundah has a nature play circuit, a climbing slope, and a bird’s nest swing; and Richardson has a skateboard ledge, and ramp, a nest swing, and a spinner.
The Waramanga play space will be opened soon, once the Government receives final approvals from Evoenergy. It will feature tree balance beams, log steppers, and large play equipment with a climbing structure and slide.
The ACT Government has also opened two new natural play spaces at Yerrabi Pond and Kambah District Park, and refreshed 50 existing playgrounds this year – part of the ‘screwdriver’ stimulus program to create jobs.
– Nick Fuller
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