FIGHTING what looks like a losing battle to stop an amenity building for cricketers at Bert Jeffery Park, residents say their kids have an unfair choice – boil in the sun or risk being hit by a wayward cricket ball.
Late last week fencing went up around the north-west corner of the park in preparation for the amenities building, which will feature two change rooms, three toilets and a kitchenette. It will mainly be used by the Applecross Cricket Club which plays on the turf wicket there on Saturday afternoons.
Despite the fencing, the Friends of Bert Jeffery Park haven’t given up trying to convince the council to drop the building, arguing it’s creating a safety risk and could transform the area from a quiet community reserve into a busy sports field against the wishes of residents.
The Herald joined two FBJP members under a stand of shady trees which are at the heart of their safety concerns. With the issue burning for four years and threats ringing in their ears, they asked not to be named.
Because the cricket club wants the building positioned so spectators don’t have the sun in their eyes, a swing set has to be moved from the shady area.
The friends say that’s unfair; kids who use the park every day will be forced out under the summer sun while cricketers who are there one afternoon a week get to enjoy the shade.
They also point to an incident last year when an 11-year-old boy was hit by a huge six.
“This child wasn’t even in the playground, he was coming through the trees on the slope down towards the playground,” one said.
There’s also contention about the oval’s boundary.
Through much of the proposal’s documentation, seen by the Herald, there’s reference to a 68-metre boundary, but when the FBJP pointed out that under current guidelines there’s supposed to be a 20-metre buffer which would put the playground in the risky area, the boundary shrank to 60 metres.
What they can’t understand is how a line drawn on the ground would make a difference; a six is a six and cricketers can’t be expected to pull their shots because the cones are a bit closer. They say the council hasn’t measured the distance correctly anyway, as it’s taken a line from the centre pitch, while cricketing guidelines say it should be taken from the outside pitches.
The FBJP say they’ve found it hard getting their point heard in council; they’ve given deputations and submitted petitions, but another deputation was blocked and they say incorrect information was used to undermine one petitions.
“All we want is for them not to put the amenity building here so anyone can use the park,” one said. “People want to use it after school and on the weekend.
“There’s dog training, fathers and sons out with their footy, we’ve had junior soccer players training here and some people bring picnic rugs.”
They say since the cricket club started using the park, they’ve noticed less families down there on the weekend.
Local councillor Duncan Macphail says that’s understandable, as there’s several other park areas “all within a five-minute sunny stroll”.
Cr Macphail said when he visited the park on a stinking Saturday last summer, the only souls brave enough to be out there were the cricketers.
“I’ve got a 1985 document which indicates that at the time of subdivision, where a lot of other parks were undulating, this one was cut and filled; so it’s always been considered an active reserve,” he said.
Cr Macphail is a big supporter of the club’s agenda, saying its helping to provide healthy lifestyle choices for young people, as well as providing a pathway for those who wanted to take their sporting career further.
He says the amenities building is also uni-sex, something few of the city’s other sports fields can boast.
But he says the residents’ concerns it would become a major sporting hub were unfounded, as it’s small size prevented it from becoming more than a “satellite” for Applecross.
Cr Machail said there was a possibility temporary fencing could go around the playground during game time, but was also supportive of it being moved further into safety and shade in the future.
But he said the buffer was unrealistic and was only a “preference”.
“If there was a buffer, there would be no cricket in any of the city’s parks,” he said.
“From some quarters it’s a small local park, but what does POS stand for – public open space,” he said.
By STEVE GRANT