In late July I wrote about community angst over plans by officialdom to demolish bike jumps built from dirt by local kids in Ainslie during the COVID-19 shutdown.
I had watched for weeks on end as the kids transported dirt in wheelbarrows to create their own sports facility. At the time, given the government’s intent to knock it down, I described it as “Canberra’s most dangerous sports facility”.
No reason was given for its proposed demolition except to say that it prompted a door-to-door petition as the kids sought to save their work from being flattened.
I have since found out that an email campaign organised by Ainslie residents directly lobbied the ACT Government to stop the proposed demolition.
The story prompted an unprecedented response from Riot ACT readers. Many provided similar stories of these bespoke community-built facilities being flattened. Others reflected on their own childhood experiences building similar ramps and jumps in local parkland.
But there was also an understanding as to why the government was opposed to makeshift constructions in an age of litigation. Many suggested a sign highlighting the danger be erected.
As it turned out, the ACT Government did intend to demolish the Ainslie jumps. I was reliably informed that workers turned up ready to knock the jumps down, only to be confronted by locals who blocked the knockdown.
On top of the email campaign, it became clear that the community around the park wasn’t going to give up without a fight. The workers retreated and nobody was sure what would happen next.
There were rumours that it would be demolished in the dead of night or the middle of the day when residents were at work or kids at school.
In the end, quite the opposite occurred. Common sense prevailed.
Instead of a confrontation, instead of a heavy-handed approach and knocking it down in defiance of community support, the facility was enhanced.
Yes, that’s right. Enhanced.
Workers turned up and spent the day building a safer facility using the framework developed by the local kids. The ACT Government took on board what the community required and built a bigger and more impressive series of jumps. The workers also left a pile of dirt to allow the kids to continue working on their own concepts.
Driving past the day after the redevelopment, I watched on as kids lined up to test the new facility with very little apparent danger.
If ever there was evidence of the prevalence of common sense and working with the community we have seen it in full display at a small suburban park in Ainslie.