DAVE COGGIN is an east ward councillor in Fremantle, father of two active young boys, and has been leading the charge on the proposed Esplanade Park youth plaza and skatepark.
The goal of the proposed youth plaza at Esplanade Park is to welcome children, youth and young people into the heart of Fremantle.
I’ve received a positive response to the proposal from across the community, but I also note there are some who are nervous about it: They want to understand what a youth plaza is, who uses it, and how it will work. To this end, I’ll try and explain what excites me about this project.
The Esplanade Park Youth Plaza will integrate skateboarding, scooting, BMX, parkour, and event functions with existing Esplanade play areas. At the core of this proposal is a desire to encourage more children, more youth, and more families to actively use Fremantle’s premier play space at the Esplanade (classified as a reserve specifically for recreation).
We want the Esplanade to cater for children of all ages and play of different types. The park now caters for little kids and for families picnicking on the vast areas of grass but not older kids (+9) or youth.
No heritage value
Esplanade Park has great potential to develop more play elements that engage with a broader range of users. It’s large enough, it’s accessible, it’s in the heart of Fremantle, and it’s the primary recreation place in Fremantle. Incidentally, the two potential plaza locations being considered are on park land that was resumed in the early 1970s and have no heritage value. On all criteria it is the best and most obvious place to locate a youth plaza.
My vision for the park is for parents like me to be able to relax in a shaded spot watching one child play on the playground while another skateboards or climbs parkour elements in the youth plaza. And maybe afterwards we can meet friends and watch a movie or band on an adjacent stage.
This vision highlights that we are talking about more than a “skate park”. Modern, contemporary youth plazas can and should do many things:
• Encourage girls and boys of all ages to participate, socialise and share.
• Be safe and accessible for all ages and skill levels.
• Enable multiple sport uses, including skateboards, scooters, BMX, parkour.
• Include design elements that double as sitting and meeting spaces, picnic spaces, and performance spaces, thus adding to the recreational and event options in the park.
It is also important to bust the myth of the “anti-social elements” associated with youth plazas. If you spend any time watching parkour (you can see lessons in Kings Square during school holidays) or skateboarding (try the great community-hub junior skate bowl in North Fremantle), you’ll discover it takes discipline, commitment and motivation to do these sports.
Even more importantly, you’ll discover a great spirit of sharing, safety and cooperation between all ages and genders. These are the antithesis of anti-social behaviours, and exactly the behaviours we should be encouraging in our kids.
Council has not just stumbled upon this idea: We set a goal in our 2010 strategic plan to engage more youth and welcome them into Fremantle. Then in 2011 we adopted a recreational needs assessment study, which identified the need to upgrade play spaces, to prioritise based on regional status (Esplanade Park being the most significant) and specifically to create a youth plaza. We then allocated funding for the youth plaza in the 2012/13 budget. And now we’re delivering.
On January 18 and 19 we held two youth plaza design consultation workshops. More than 80 turned up, and another 220 have submitted feedback to an online survey. By local government standards, this is very significant engagement. The workshops were amazing, with kids as young as six-years-old, teenagers, and adults all contributing ideas to what a great, integrated, accessible and safe youth plaza would look like.
Among many design ideas, there was universal acceptance the plaza should:
• Act as a multi-function play space, attractive to and activated by both boys and girls of all ages and all abilities.
• Include active play elements (for skating, BMX, scooting, parkour), passive recreation elements (for relaxing, viewing, sitting in shade) and mutli-use elements (for events and socialising).
• Integrate with the existing play space and open spaces in the Esplanade Park, so the park works simultaneously for multiple active and passive recreational uses.
• Make the park even more attractive and inviting to kids, families and visitors.
I am confident the designers, the community and the council can deliver a design that does all of these things. And when we do, we will provide a great new space in the heart of Fremantle that makes the Esplanade Park even better.