OPINION: Is play the key to Garden Place?

By Danielle Nicholson

1 comment
Muddy's Playground in Cairns. Could we turn Garden Place into a haven for children?
Muddy's Playground in Cairns. Could we turn Garden Place into a haven for children?

This time last year, our Facebook page and website were humming with great ideas from readers about what they would like to see happen with Garden Place.

Local radio personality Mark Bunting had been vocal about the antisocial behaviour that was prevalent in the area and had called for city leaders to address the problem.

That front page story sparked plenty of constructive suggestions from readers and civic and business leaders about what they think Garden Place should look like and how it could be improved in order to stave off unsociable behaviour in the CBD.

It's had facelift after facelift - the bills for which have been footed by ratepayers - and still we don't seem to have got it right. Several readers suggested something really very simple that may be a silver bullet, and it was supported by city councillor Angela O'Leary and Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Sandy Turner. A playground.

Last year, readers told us there was no reason for families to stop in Garden Place, that there was nothing fun for kids to play on. Nothing has changed.

As Angela pointed out back then, the key to creating a positive, harmonious atmosphere in Garden Place is to make the area family-friendly.

She said there was an opportunity to create a "pocket playground" in Garden Place that would draw in families and children and that the area would be an ideal location for a "site-appropriate playground, something innovative", with permanent coffee carts on the perimeter.

On a recent trip to Queensland, I came across Muddy's Playground - a vibrant inner city playground in Cairns that was alive with children and adults day in, day out.

There was plenty of age-appropriate equipment, from a separate area for under fives through to more challenging climbing equipment for older kids. There were water spouts and fountains and shallow streams for kids and adults alike to stomp around in and cool off in. All of it was sheltered from the fierce Aussie sun with trees and colourful canopies.

A cafe on the perimeter was busy all day long with people ordering coffees, meals and ice creams.

Families of all kinds made use of it all day long. There was a large Aboriginal brood who'd cooked a mammoth feast on a nearby barbecue, there was an Asian grandmother and her little grandson, and typical nuclear Aussie families.

None of the surrounds were tagged or vandalised; inconspicuous security cameras were dotted around the area and security patrols were a regular sight.

Would you take your children to a playground like that in Garden Place? Is there still support for that concept in our CBD? I'd love to hear your thoughts on that as I'm sure Angela and Sandy would.

- Hamilton News

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