Council refuses to rebuild “nation’s worst” park despite demands

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
5 Min Read

A “prison yard” park costing more than $2 million won’t be rebuilt despite the demands from angry parents.

Cambridge Street Reserve Park in Collingwood, dubbed “Australia’s worst new playground”, was recently renovated by Yarra City Council, but its new features, or lack thereof, have failed to impress some residents.

As part of the planned upgrade by the council, the space’s slides, swings, seesaw and climbing apparatus were ripped out and replaced with a minimalist nest swing and an “unreachable” set of metal pull-up bars.

The change has attracted fierce criticism from locals who say the space is no longer child-friendly, with 1,500 even signing a petition to reinstate the previous range of play equipment.

But Yarra City Council claims they have given locals what they asked for.

Council says no to reinstating play equipment

Today, a local government spokesperson confirmed to Build-it that Yarra City Council had no plans to reconstruct the park in the face of growing petition numbers.

Build it was told that the council undertook significant community consultation before the “upgrades”, where the local community did not identify playground equipment as a high priority.

“After consulting with the local community about creating a new pocket park in Collingwood, the vast majority told us they wanted more green open space where they could relax,” the spokesperson said.

“Only five of the 171 people who responded requested traditional play equipment.”

New park a let down for kids

But disappointed parents are not giving up on having the play park equipment reinstalled, saying what stands now pales in comparison and fails to meet the needs of our growing community.

Petition author and local grandmother Gaynor Taylor says the park’s new minimalistic and colourless design had missed the mark on providing appropriate infrastructure for the area’s growing number of children, as high-rise living became the only option for many families feeling the pinch of Victoria’s housing crisis.

“The park was upgraded, but the playground was downgraded,” Ms Taylor said.

“There is no reason both couldn’t have been upgraded harmoniously without there being a detriment to the green space or the playground.”

“There are so many unique, clever, and even eye-pleasing designs that incorporate the traditional play equipment that was promised. So many possibilities, so many missed opportunities.”

Collingwood resident and mum of one Brielle Pope said she signed the petition as it was clear the council had prioritised aesthetics over practicality.

“I was excited watching the construction develop, anticipating what the new playground equipment was going to entail, so when the big silver structure went up, and the gates came down a few days later opening the park, I was just confused and outraged,” she explained.

“This needs to be rectified by the City of Yarra to better service the families in all these growing apartment buildings in the area.”

Another local mum, Anne-Sophie Etheve, says she liked the new park’s appearance, but the lack of play materials left her dissatisfied with the upgrade.

“I live nearby and was so excited to have a park where my daughter could play but was so disappointed with the result,” she said.

“One swing, none really adapted to babies and toddlers, no slides… I like the new park, but the lack of kid’s equipment is very disappointing.”

Yarra Council is developing a “Play Space Strategy” to guide a fair distribution of play and activity equipment across Yarra’s parks for future works.

Locals asked for more space

Prior to the petition, Yarra Mayor Claudia Nguyen said children’s play had been considered in the park design.

“This park is inclusive and accessible; play is integrated into the design of the park. We’ve included a swing, some bike infrastructure and even a dog bowl for our furry friends”.

The Victorian Government supported the project, contributing $1.3 million to its reconstruction, with Yarra City Council investing over $731,000.

Yarra City Council says they have delivered on resident’s requests to bring more outdoor space to the area.

“In a suburb such as Collingwood, which only has 0.3% open space, expanding the size of the park was a major driver for the park’s design,” they told Build-it.

“Council has responded to the community’s needs by building a new park double its original size.”

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.