Canberra’s most dangerous sports facility

Tim Gavel 30 July 2020 116
The jumps in Ainslie

Dirt mounds constructed and used by local Ainslie kids as a BMX bike course. Photos: Tim Gavel.

For months during the COVID-19 shutdown, I have seen local kids in and around Duffy Street in Ainslie industriously build their own sports facility in the neighbouring park.

The dirt mounds that are the foundation of their bike jumps were built by carting dirt in wheelbarrows from a neighbour’s front yard. Effectively they have created their own mini BMX circuit. The park is large with expanses of grassy areas, dotted with some native trees.

The construction does not impede people who wish to walk through the park to Mount Ainslie. They were diligent and hard-working in their construction, which took a considerable amount of time and effort. Once completed, it has proved to be popular with many young people in the neighbourhood.

Threatened dirt mounds

Up close to the threatened dirt construction.

If nothing else, COVID-19 has forced kids who would normally be involved in organised sport or some form of organised activity to be innovative. More stick houses and bike jumps have appeared in the nature parks as people flock to natural areas during the COVID-19 period.

The bushland around Canberra has become a gymnasium with people jumping over fallen trees, doing press-ups against trees or simply walking or running.

The creation and building of their own sports facilities such as the BMX track in Ainslie takes it a step further and it’s exactly what we want our kids to be doing.

It is what we used to do as kids. Growing up on a farm it was second nature to create something outdoors. Rarely did we want to spend time inside and only did so when it became dark.

We used to build rafts to float down the river or build houses made of sticks or construct ramps to jump our bikes over.

You don’t see much of it these days for a number of reasons, including the risk of injury.

Another factor has, of course, been the advent of computers and gaming, which has become a surrogate for creating your own adventure. With computers you don’t even have to leave your own lounge room, or in the case of teenagers, bedrooms.

For a few months, COVID-19 seemed to change all that as families flocked to the nature parks to exercise in the absence of organised sport. There was a desire to get out of the house.

On Friday the kids involved in building the bike circuit in Ainslie were door knocking, asking residents to sign a petition to stop the ACT Government from knocking down their homemade facility.

I signed it, while at the same time wondering what section of the ACT Government would be responsible for taking such action and what would be the reason behind it.

Before we head into a mini version of The Castle, there are perhaps some legitimate reasons for a land management authority to take action against the dirt mound construction.

Is it the danger posed to those using the track?

If an individual became injured because of dirt mounds in a park, would they sue the ACT Government because it is on their land?

Or is there another issue? Is it considered an unauthorised structure built without the proper planning approval? Is it an aesthetic problem, impacting on the visual of the park?

It could be all of the above.

It could also be a microcosm of what we have become as a litigious, risk-averse society.

Should locals kids be allowed to make their own fun without a supervising government hand?

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116 Responses to Canberra’s most dangerous sports facility
russianafroman russianafroman 4:54 pm 02 Aug 20

Interesting legal situation, whereas whose to say some developer couldn’t just start dumping fill in public parks.

Alan Green Alan Green 10:08 am 02 Aug 20

I was fortunate when I grew up to be able to use the ditches and humps along with tracks in the local woods as a fantastic cycle track and obstacle course. These children must be supported in their enterprise and adrenaline rising sporting activities as it keeps them healthy, occupied, interested in making and doing things for their betterment. ACT get your act together and support them. If like me, they will remember the fun well into their 70’s. 🚴🏻🇬🇧👴

Carlos Antonio Pavez Carlos Antonio Pavez 12:56 pm 01 Aug 20

Watson has one to but the kids there carry knives lol

David Ferguson David Ferguson 9:01 pm 30 Jul 20

Funny how this is an issue but you look at some of the so called ovals around our town and the terrible condition they are in, I wish our government would do something to fix those. Evatt and Lyneham ovals are two excellent examples.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 7:28 pm 30 Jul 20

Pity to wipe it out but otherwise the first kid injured will probably have idiot parents who will sue using no-win-no-fee lawyers, because the government owns the track, being on government property. I suggest building a new one where the government won’t find it.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:23 pm 30 Jul 20

“wondering what section of the ACT Government would be responsible for taking such action”

That section should talk to the section which is paid to worry about child health – particularly the obesity and eyesight problems suffered by young shut-in screen junkies.

Henry Thomson Henry Thomson 6:47 pm 30 Jul 20

Get rid of self-government and bring back the national capital development commission. i think it was much freer in the 1970s compared to now.

Mat Nash Mat Nash 6:39 pm 30 Jul 20

Look up iconic trails on instragram and socials, They build pump tracks and jump tracks for local schools in Canberra. Look at Mt stromlo school and at kippax Kingsford Smith school and a new one at Red Hill primary, I believe Red Hill and stromlo high are able to be ridden by the public too outside of school hours which is tops for the local community.
These tracks are well signed with instruction on how to use them and skills required plus appropriate warnings. I feel that’s what suburbs need as a cheap easy activity for all ages to enjoy. I’m an adult and would love to have a local pumptrack

Julie Maynard Julie Maynard 2:40 pm 30 Jul 20

Same thing happened in Flynn.

Phil Hopkins Phil Hopkins 2:52 am 30 Jul 20

These little tracks are all over Canberra - mostly hidden. Kids just having fun.

Mate Batinić Mate Batinić 10:11 pm 29 Jul 20

Let kids be kids ffs...

demetri demetri 9:14 pm 29 Jul 20

It was my 15yo son who started these jumps. He doesn’t make friends easily, but as he built the jumps other kids gathered around to help. Now he has friends. His friends are from a cross-section of ages, from different schools both public and private, and he’s also developed important relationships with some of the local adults.
The kids build these jumps because they want to be able to enjoy improving their bike-jumping skills. They don’t just build for themselves, but they make easy little jumps that young children can roll over. They build together because they enjoy each other’s company. They take pride in their work and finish the jumps to a high standard.
The neighbourhood support for these jumps is strong. Many neighbours who don’t use the jumps simply take pleasure in seeing the kids building and enjoying them.
I’m not an activist and I don’t want to be one, but I’m heartened and grateful for those that feel passionately about this issue and speak out and write about it.
I would prefer that the government leave the kids alone. Their spontaneous creativity and naturally inclusive community are precious.
I’m willing to work with government to address any reasonable concerns they might have. I think a sign saying, “Ride at your own risk” would be sufficient, but as I just said, I’d prefer the government to leave the kids alone to enjoy their work and each other’s company.

    russianafroman russianafroman 4:52 pm 02 Aug 20

    If your kid hurts himself, please resist the temptation to sue the government.

Brendan Charlesworth Brendan Charlesworth 8:49 pm 29 Jul 20

I am all for these neighborhood tracks, but you can guarantee someone will hurt themselves, hire a smart lawyer and sue the government. Cannot blame the ACT Gov for closing them down.

    Demetri Neidorf Demetri Neidorf 9:21 pm 29 Jul 20

    No. It might happen, someone might sue, but it's actually more likely not to happen. These jumps are much less dangerous than many other sites around Canberra. A simple sign along the lines of "Ride at your own risk" should cover it.

Cathy Louise Cathy Louise 8:19 pm 29 Jul 20

We built bmx tracks as kids in Tuggeranong. They were regularly bulldozed. Nothing new.

Lyndon Zoukowski Lyndon Zoukowski 8:16 pm 29 Jul 20

We had one on Mt. Rogers as a kid. Was awesome, taught me some great skills and challenged me to be fit and healthy. 🤔

Garry Dodds Garry Dodds 8:01 pm 29 Jul 20

I don't have a Problem as Kids need to be Adventurous but if they were to be injured who pays the Hospital bill.

    Demetri Neidorf Demetri Neidorf 9:30 pm 29 Jul 20

    Hi Garry. Same as who pays the bill when anyone gets injured: All of us. We pay a Medicare levy.

Garry Peadon Garry Peadon 7:15 pm 29 Jul 20

These home made tracks are great for neighbourhoods. Kids come together, make new friends and gain high self esteem from helping and creating something.

Carl Ostermann Carl Ostermann 6:47 pm 29 Jul 20

In the mid nineties, I knew a respectable type woman who couldn't resist but to sue the council because she tripped over a crack in a footpath by not watching where she was going and got $15k for her own lack of common sense and it has become a trend from then on. If you remove insurance companies... you regain common sense, self worth and people will be better off.

Patrick J Pentony Patrick J Pentony 6:30 pm 29 Jul 20

Could the government work with the kids to make the track safe? The new bike track built at Red Hill School has proven extremely popular for the whole community.

    Cara Paton Cara Paton 7:03 pm 30 Jul 20

    Those trails were paid for by the actual school. Go schools

Aaron Lizars Aaron Lizars 5:51 pm 29 Jul 20

This isn’t unusual they’ve been knocking them down for 20 years

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