Saturday, 7 March 2015

What happened at the Skatepark session

First my apologies for waiting so long to post this. My observation after the vibrant session at Dig summed it up:

Profound thanks to Aaron Wallis for his presentation which was universally acclaimed and really shifted everyone's thinking to the point where the Skatepark title may no longer be appropriate.


Thanks to Michael Redden for chairing a sometimes tricky discussion.

The stand out take-home was that Steve Proposch ( will reinvigorate the committee looking at this proposal, reopen the question of location and, most importantly ask people to contact him to join this group.

Discussions will proceed on the Rocket Science Skatepark Facebook Page - free for all to read.

Lively discussions in the true spirit of Rocket Science where an expert - Aaron Wallis from Playce ( ) presented a stimulating overview of outdoor recreation spaces for people of all ages; followed by a Q&A session chaired by Michael Redden.

The purpose of Sunday’s session is to investigate further, develop ideas and possibilities for the future of a park.
 “ We need to balance the needs of the community.”

Michael commented  on the attendance of over 20 with a variety of groups represented. There were kids with skateboards at the ready, Historical Society members, local & neighbouring residents, oldies, parents and those with an interest in the sport of skateboarding.
Michael explained that Council owns the land where the old netball courts are located and is awaiting an outcome from the Newstead community for its future use.
Some years ago Mount Alexander Shire Council conducted an investigation into vacant space around the Shire and the old netball courts were identified then, as a potential site for a skate park in Newstead. He is hoping that Sunday’s Rocket Science Session would prompt discussion and local community input. Ours is the next step…..

 Michael introduced our expert presenter, Aaron Wallis, who asked the crucial question for Newstead :
 WHO are you developing this space for?
Youth or Skaters?

Aaron’s presentation:
Aaron’s approach is to cater for kids who want to socialise and ‘hang out’. So a traditional,  dedicated  Skate Park may no longer be the answer if we are to cater for more young people and the wider community.  From his wide experience of creating over 600 outdoor  play spaces he  recommends that we :
Don’t ask kids what they want  -  INSTEAD
Ask what they like to do to hang out  - THEN
Create a space AND then run a program for it to use the space

Slide: What makes a good space for young people

He emphasised the importance of listening and responding to what teens actually want, don’ t assume that adults and bureaucrats know best and the importance of social inclusion for teens. 

“There is no need for age specific space, everyone should be able to freely play and have fun, socialise informally shared urban spaces. easily accessed - location is critical.

Seating, benches, protection from the sun and winds, grassy shady spaces, outdoor cinema, youth stage, outdoor music spaces, power points to recharge mobile devices, wifi, 3 phase power.

Some surprising results - girls wanted mirrors to practice dance moves, teens like and need to “hang out”, plenty of research supports their need to socialise and form relationships with their peers in safe public space where they already loiter in or near shopping centre, they dislike being hunted off by security guards. 

Important to include girls. Recognise cultural abilities vs competitive skills. 

Why do we see a group of teens as a threat?
Not all teens are into active, competitive sport. Those who are, enjoy challenges, hone their skills,and take risks. Others are happy to simply sit and watch, or gather with friends. ⅓ of their waking time is spent in the company of friends Forming friendships &  socialising is an important stage of their development, practicing to become adults. Avoid alienation and anti-social behaviour. Perhaps it is the adults who complain about teens loitering, ‘get a job, should be at school’ who are antisocial.

Adaptive Reuse  
 Aaron is well aware of the value of making maximum use of space - multifunction. An expensive amphitheatre might only be used 3 times a year, when a bandstand that doubles as a performance space, can be covered with a marquee, be the site of a farmer’s market, cafe, art exhibition space, chalk walls. 

Not afraid to save on costs by repurposing found objects and waste to provide challenges for skaters and outdoor sculptures. There was a situation where a rusted outdoor table setting donated for a skate space was being used by a family for a picnic (original purpose) when a group of skaters turned up to practice their moves. Aim for a shared urban space that is skateable, flexible, terraces to create “ spaces that are playful.

Play strategies are mostly for young children.
Youth Strategies focus on projects & service provision
Skate Strategies - for those who skate

For some councils who have spent serious amounts of money on a skate park with concrete & hard edges in an out of the way place the obvious neglect and lack of use has proven an expensive lesson - kids like to be part of the scene,  in the centre of town.


Aaron completed his presentation and Michael opened the forum for discussion and questions.

Discussion topics: 
“Newstead is good at running our own community”

(Summarised in point form to reflect topics discussed and comments made)

Where ?   Asked David
In response a number of locations were mentioned  - their pros and cons.

Old Netball Courts 
Concern re proximity to heritage building of old Court House now Historical Society used only Mondays
Isolated area 
Toilets needed
Away from Highway traffic 
Central to town
Noise and light pollution a concern for nearby residents

Adjacent to Pirate Park
Already a playground area
Central to town
Levee bank provides access to river bank and changes in terrain for skaters, riders 
Walking paths fan out to other paths and parts of town 
Pirate Park is too close to dangers of bridge risk of  traffic accident
Toilets needed

Adjacent to Swimming Pool & Car Park area
Kids already gather there 
Pool is under adult supervision in summer
Toilets handy
Concern that carpark already busy space from Community Centre activities
Noise an issue for nearby residents

Anzac Park near Art Station Hub
Already a playground area
Close to Station Arts Hub
Plenty of flat open space exists under utilised
Wrong part of town for some
Access issues due to dangerous bridge crossing and lack of pedestrian bridge or barriers

Rotunda Park area
Open Space under used
Handy to Primary School
Not somewhere that kids hang out

Families want :
bbq area
space for family gathering 
sitting areas to observe, supervise children
 all ages use skate parks
open with good supervision view lines
shaded, pleasant location
Currently driving kids into Castlemaine to use that skate park
Areas that provide activities for kids within Newstead
Young families moving into town, need amenities to stay put

Girls playing at old netball courts went  6 months without access to a public toilet. Hiistorical Society toilets vandalised at this time
 No handy toilet to Pirate Park - parents have to run across main road for children to use toilets neat pool
Castlemaine Skate Park lacks toilets - nearest are over the road at supermarket or in Victory Park.

Multiple Users in a Shared Space
Tai Chi classes need tranquil setting
Fitness Group of approx 18 meet twice weekly at 6.30am indoors at Community Centre - wooden floor not ideal . Ages range 17- 70+
Artists & Artistic community seek exhibition, hanging display areas, walls, space
Newstead lacks a town square or central community space
Opportunities for community
Shaded outdoor seating areas needed
Chess games
Adult fitness exercise points

Concerned about noise light pollution at night from outdoor bands for nearby residents
Map the commons, conduct a survey of locals’ sense of ownership of public space around Newstead to form a coherent basis for any development proposals.
No objection to skate parks and skateboarding - questions appropriateness of proposed old netball court location
Values quiet country living and amenity of a peaceful Newstead
Fears urbanisation and over development of a sensitive site near Court House historic precinct

Historical Society - Dawn Angliss
Expressed concern re past instances of vandalism and forced entry to historic Court House
Fears graffiti damage to historic Court House
No objection to a skate park, a grandmother herself
Gayle asked why continue to refer to proposed space as a Skate Park? When it offers so much more to the community - passive recreation for all ages.

Next Step - Design of Space and How it is Used?
Current Skate Park Committee needs new members
Link space between historical Court House Precinct and modern Newstead Pavilion - sensitive approach required
Grant Applications more likely to be accepted where whole of community supports and benefits from any proposed development.

June Rocket Science Session be an overview & review session to gauge progress on Priorities from Newstead Community Plan

Big round of applause for Aaron who was urged to return to Newstead (funds/ grants permitting)  to progress ideas and issues he raised further.
Aaron Wallis
“Aaron Wallis is a registered Landscape Architect with AILA and member of both PLA and Play Australia. Now Director of his new company Playce Pty Ltd, Aaron has lectured at RMIT University and fulfilled key primary management roles in a number of companies over 15 years of practice.
Aarons key specialisation is the design of public space that actively caters for young people. He has been a leader in this field over the last decade, demonstrated with the successful delivery of a multitude of innovative and award winning projects focusing primarily on skate & youth space provision in the public domain.
He has also regularly presents on the importance of youth inclusive public space at a range of professional conferences throughout Australia.” 

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