BY SATHSARA RADALIYAGODA AND TOMMY BOUTROS
The decision to create a skate park in Rushcutters Bay Park now resides with the community.
Woollahra Council has decided to enlist a designer to develop a draft proposal for the facility.
The original proposal was created in response to a petition put forth by a group of residents named Skatecraft. The lack of youth facilities in the area and the see-saw nature of past proposals compelled the group to make changes.
However, in their recently released report, Woollahra Council announced they will invite public consultation on the design of the project.
“Council will engage a skate facility designer to prepare a site analysis for Rushcutters Bay Park … and will undertake public exhibition of the concept design for a youth recreation facility,” said the report.
A longstanding movement from members of the community has been calling for the construction of a skate park and other recreation facilities.
With 12.7% of residents in Woollahra falling within the age bracket of 10-19 years, members of the community argue there is insufficient infrastructure to accommodate for the needs of these youth.
The park in Rushcutters Bay has been proposed as the most suitable site for the development due to its expansive area and central location, on Sydney’s harbourside.
An online survey of residents conducted by Woollahra Council highlights the demand among locals for youth facilities, with 62% of people stating that the council had a duty to provide the facility and 53% saying they “felt a youth recreation facility was important.”
Despite the widespread support, the development has also seen a backlash from some members of the community, who argue a skate park is not the most suitable solution. Local resident, Christian Lincoln Smith, objects to a skate park, saying it could encourage teenagers to misbehave.
“Rushcutters Bay park has slowly transformed into a dog and family friendly park. I think a skate park would be an eyesore and attract the wrong crowd. It would have detrimental effects on the serenity the residents currently enjoy,” she said.
Robbie Hall, another local resident of Rushcutters Bay said the skate park is not necessary for the area.
“Everybody over here is against it, it should be in Centennial Park. I hear that a number of the councils don’t support it. It’s wrong to have a skate park there, it’s very well populated by a lot of people in the Eastern Suburbs…we don’t want the distraction of a skate park there…we do not need it,” he said.
Ms. Hall said the area is frequented by many young families, the elderly and children on a regular basis, making it inappropriate for a skate park.
Nonetheless, CSIRO released a report in 2013 titled ‘The Future of Australian Sport,’ where skateboarding was featured as a ‘megatrend,’ which they said would substantially alter people’s lives as “a lifestyle sport experiencing a rapid surge in popularity.”
A spokesperson for the Sydney Skateboarding Association is eager for the construction to begin and commented on how the lack of facilities has impacted on local youth.
“You’re not really giving them any opportunity, the same people who are complaining about the skate park being constructed are probably the same people who complain to the police about unruly youths wandering the streets and loitering. So you’ve got to meet in the middle and see that by not providing a place for these kids to go and actually socialise in a safe, fun and healthy environment you’re leading them down a much darker path,” he said.
A council gathering on 10 April has left locals with more questions, after no further advice on the progress of the proposal was to be found in the meeting’s minutes.