The issue of a skate park in the Sydney CBD has been an ongoing one. My Greens colleague Councillor Chris Harris and myself have over the past year been heavily involved in campaigning to have one built to meet the needs of the many skaters who live in and visit the City.
Sadly, while Lord Mayor Clover Moore talks big on the issue she has recently pulled the plug on two very promising projects, one at Prince Alfred Park and one at Millers Point. In both cases her primary reason for doing so was the objections of local residents, which I feel represent the views of a vocal minority unduly influenced by unfair stereotypes about skaters.
Taking a pragmatic approach to the situation I moved this motion at a Council meeting on the 10th of May directing Council to negotiate with the Barangaroo Delivery Authority (BDA) to have a skate park included in the plans for this new development. Barangaroo is set to be a large new precinct on the eastern side of Darling Harbour including commercial and residential areas and, most importantly for these purposes, a large park on the headland. The size of the proposed headland park would allow a skate park to be built far enough away from residences to alleviate the concerns raised about the two previous proposals.
Council passed my motion unanimously so now the final decision on the skate park will rest with the BDA. The Lord Mayor and Council CEO have already approached the BDA, as per the motion. I will also be meeting with the BDA and below is the text of a letter I sent to the CEO of BDA, John Tabart, outlining why I believe the proposal deserves serious consideration. I would encourage any who supports this proposal to write to Mr Tabart – firstname.lastname@example.org – and do the same.
Dear Mr Tabart and members of the Barangaroo Development Authority (BDA)
I am writing to add my voice to the representations you have already received from City of Sydney Council in relation to the construction of a skate park at Barangaroo. At a meeting of Council on the 10th of May a motion that I moved calling for Council, and specifically the Lord Mayor, to lobby the BDA to include a skate park in its plans for Barangaroo was passed unanimously.
While I am sure the Lord Mayor will be an advocate for this proposal through her role on the BDA board I wish to personally outline the reasons I believe a skate park should be built at Barangaroo.
Value of skate parks in general
Skateboarding is an active outdoor recreational pursuit that appeals to a wide demographic, from children as young as four to adults. In this age of childhood obesity and climate change we should be doing all we can to encourage young people to engage in physical activity and use sustainable transport – by creating facilities that allow them to learn to use a skateboard safely in a fun, social environment you do both.
Demand for a Skate Park in the Sydney CBD
It has been estimated that around 2000 skaters live in the City of Sydney Local Government Area and that another 56 000 live in a 20km radius. A Facebook group calling for a skate park to be built in the CBD currently has over 900 members.
In recent years there has been much public consternation about young people skating in public places in the CBD. Many people report that they worry about the potential for accidents between skaters and pedestrians to occur in areas like Martin Place while others are concerned about the damage skateboards do to certain structures – such as the sandstone steps at Cook and Phillip Park.
While I feel that most of these concerns come from people who are unfamiliar with skate board culture and are more worried than they need to be, it is clear that there is also significant support from outside the skating community for city skaters being given a specially set aside place for them to practice their hobby.
Over the course of the last few years two proposals for skate parks within the Sydney CBD have been developed but ultimately rejected by the Lord Mayor. The proposals were rejected primarily because of concerns about noise from local residents as well as potential for interference with pedestrian and cycling routes. If these two sites, at Prince Alfred Park and Millers Point, are not suitable then it’s hard to see where else in the CBD would be.
Barangaroo presents the perfect opportunity. The headland park will be a wide open space with plenty of room separating it from the nearest residential buildings. The fact that the precinct is being planned from scratch also means that a skate park can be located in such a way that it does not interfere with other features of the development. The integrated transport planning for the site will also mean the skate park would be easy for young people to access and leave.
The BDA has stated that active recreation facilities will be included in the development of Barangaroo and the construction of a skate park would be a prime example of such a facility that would see plenty of use. It would also be a great way of improving the broad demographic appeal of the site. While the plan for Barangaroo is one of inclusiveness it is always hard to create facilities in a development such as this that appeal to young people – a skate park is one of the simplest ways this can be done and is likely to be very well received.
There are a number of members of Council staff who have a high degree of experience in the area of skate park design who are willing to assist the BDA in this matter. Their knowledge would be a valuable asset that could serve to make a project such as this significantly cheaper than other projects of a similar scale.
A temporary skate park has also been suggested and I believe that this idea already has some traction with members of the BDA. This would be a great precursor to a permanent skate park and would enliven what is currently a dead space. I believe this would be an excellent project and would give the Authority experience of how popular such a facility could be and how to go about designing a permanent one in the future.
I hope you will give serious consideration to what I and the other representatives of City of Sydney Council have had to say in this matter and I encourage you to take a bold step that will show the Authority’s commitment to diversity and healthy activities for the young people of our community.
Councillor Irene Doutney
City of Sydney Council