By BRITTANY COLES
The community is divided after Bayside City Council revealed its draft plan to replace a much-loved wooden playground in Hampton.
The council has stated the playground has reached the end of its usable life, and plans to demolish it now that the wooden fort equipment has surpassed its 20 year life-span.
The Thomas Street Park playground was built in the mid-1980s, and has since provided the backdrop for cherished childhood memories to members of the Bayside community.
The council is currently consulting with the community in the second major phase of engagement in developing the playground design.
More than 60 members of the Bayside community shared photos, videos and stories of their memories at the current Thomas Street Playground on a community forum created by the council.
Some residents used the platform to urge the council to reconsider the decision to upgrade the playground at all.
“Please Bayside Council stop wasting money, the playground is well loved and used place, it simply does not need replacing, just get rid of the rats,” one resident wrote in the community forum.
The reconstruction will also incorporate equipment for elderly and all-ability residents.
Council director of environment, recreation and infrastructure, Steven White, said since the first consultation stage in March the draft plans have been well received, with positive feedback on carrying forward a wooden castle in the new playground design.
“Bayside has had little in the way of accessible playgrounds. That means local families with a child with a disability have had to travel outside the municipality just to enjoy a playground,” Mr White said.
“Developing an inclusive playground at Thomas Street Reserve makes life a bit easier for local families, and most importantly it provides a place where everyone in our community is welcome and encouraged to play together.”
A Community Reference group has been established to consider feedback from various sources, and in collaboration with the consultant playground designer, will recommend changes to the plan to address issues, concerns and ideas raised during the consultation.
Hampton resident and community reference group member, Jo Levett, said upgrading the Thomas Street playground is well overdue and going to be really exciting for the community.
Ms Levett believes it is important for Bayside to have an all-abilities playground to benefit disabled members of the community, including her 14-year-old daughter.
“Students at Bayside Special Development School can’t currently go to this playground, It’s too hard,” Ms Levett said.
“The new park will be so much better and safer for kids in general,” she said.
Ms Levett says the Community Reference Group sympathises with residents disappointed to hear the existing playground will be demolished.
“We understand, but I don’t understand why people are not moving on,” Ms Levett said.
“It is time for an upgrade and I love the new features it is going to be awesome for everyone,” she said.
The draft plan proposes a wider range of equipment and activities and in addition to the equipment, there will be spaces for imaginative play and nature-based play.
The plan also includes a seniors exercise area adjacent to the main playground.
This area would include equipment to encourage healthy ageing, with a focus on balance, flexibility and strength.
The council has stated it is aiming for an all-inclusive playground that will cater to intergenerational needs.
The council state this would enable grandparents or older carers to enjoy the playground with their grandchildren, rather than the normal ‘sitting to the side’.
The draft plan will be amended by the council’s Project Control Group once community consultation has been reviewed.
Construction of the Thomas Street All-Abilities and Ages Playground is due to begin in 2020.