Canberra’s most dangerous sports facility

Tim Gavel 30 July 2020 182
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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182 Responses to Canberra’s most dangerous sports facility
Maree Winmill Maree Winmill 7:56 am 29 Jul 20

We’re trying to kids get out and be active and that has to be convenient and independent, personal. With COVID-19 community sport has been shut down and in any case organised community sport isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s fabulous the kids are doing these activities; not just the activity they’ve created but how their brains are working overtime to come up with the design and they are learning cooperation.

Jenna Vdv Jenna Vdv 7:51 am 29 Jul 20

When I was a kid there was always ‘the jumps’ in the car park of a church in Chisholm. Always so many kids there, outside, enjoying being a kid. Growing up without mobile phones, computers, the internet and gaming consoles was so much better.

Taryn Langdon Taryn Langdon 7:51 am 29 Jul 20

Definitely need to work out a way engage, empower and support these kids across our suburbs to allow the creation of places where they want to be. The one the local kids made in Kambah was bulldozed it would wonderful to see the kids supported to build something that could be enduring and work for everyone.

    Jess MacLeod Jess MacLeod 8:22 am 29 Jul 20

    Taryn Langdon Really?! That is so disappointing. Why do we discourage those kids who want to be outside having fun?! Much better than sitting inside watching TV!

    Hamish Sinclair Hamish Sinclair 10:19 am 29 Jul 20

    it rather smacks of we know whats best for you arrogance

    Shane Morton Shane Morton 12:28 pm 30 Jul 20

    seems like a great way to help kids start an anti-authoritarian lifestyle.... (we worked so hard on this thing and then “the government” destroyed it, etc).

    I wonder if there is a way there could be engagement to help them achieve something like this and not have it bulldozed?

Frances Hadlington Frances Hadlington 7:50 am 29 Jul 20

Kids had one in Holder near the wetlands which was taken into consideration in the wetlands planning and subsequent development and is still there now. So grateful it was supported, local kids love it!

Chris Meakin Chris Meakin 7:49 am 29 Jul 20

Ahhh, that may explain why the local kids in my suburb built a BMX track somewhat hidden in the bush. I hope the Ainslie one stays.

Steve Ulrich Steve Ulrich 7:48 am 29 Jul 20

Act gov should be sponsoring this to make it safe if they have concerns, not remove it.

steveu steveu 7:47 am 29 Jul 20

Those kids are legends, and the ACT govt should be making it safe if they have concerns, rather than removing it. If I was the parents of those kids I would be proud.

Emmac Ph Emmac Ph 7:47 am 29 Jul 20

Garreth Paton- something for Iconic Trails to pursue?

Kat Inthehat Kat Inthehat 7:47 am 29 Jul 20

Put the petition on here! I’m sure many of us from other suburbs would love to support the kids to keep it.

    Renee Regan Renee Regan 7:57 am 29 Jul 20

    Kat Inthehat is there a petition... share with me and I’ll sign it x

    Kat Inthehat Kat Inthehat 7:58 am 29 Jul 20

    Renee Regan I think the kids were door knocking so I don’t think it was online.

    Renee Regan Renee Regan 7:59 am 29 Jul 20

    Kat Inthehat they need to get it online!

Dan Rowley Dan Rowley 7:47 am 29 Jul 20

Perhaps the ACT Government needs to focus on their inability to provide for the needs of the community. This might just stop the community needing to provide for itself. The playscape "upgrades" Chris Steel recently put through Watson were a disgraceful waste of cash and did nothing to provide for the community, especially young families.

Chloe Harpley Chloe Harpley 7:46 am 29 Jul 20

The same thing has happened in the Lyneham Eucalyptus Reserve - kids built tracks over isolation, only to have someone apply to the Environment Dept to have it dismantled because it's not approved or whatever. To do so, this 'concerned community member' placed large rocks and branches, and kicked in parts of the track, leaving some rideable and parts with these very dangerous hazards - no visible signage either! Like, get a real environmental problem to fight?

    John Taylor John Taylor 8:45 am 29 Jul 20

    Chloe Harpley this sort of thing unchecked degrades the environment particularly with respect to those we share it with. Big picture issue.

Taryn Langdon Taryn Langdon 7:45 am 29 Jul 20

Laura Harris there is a growing movement! 💪🏻

Karen Cullen Karen Cullen 7:43 am 29 Jul 20

A similar “home made” track was built in Evatt by some young neighbourhood boys. They spent hours building the very professional looking track which provided fun for kids of all ages. It was great to see the kids having fun, laughing and enjoying themselves not stuck indoors. One morning without warning a bobcat showed up and flattened it.

It just seemed so senseless. Now the unused space is a mess of bobcat tracks and there’s no kids to be seen - probably back to being stuck inside playing computer games.

Ainslie kids - hope you keep your adventure track.

Dave Cochrane Dave Cochrane 7:42 am 29 Jul 20

How is this any different to the track next to stromlo high school? A.C.T. fun police at it again!

    Damien Kell Damien Kell 8:12 am 29 Jul 20

    Dave Cochrane the main difference is the track at Stromlo went through the appropriate process. If the A.C.T. fun police don't let these things happen, how was Stromlo ever developed?

    Dave Cochrane Dave Cochrane 7:18 am 30 Jul 20

    Damien Kell .I'm not referring to the track at stromal, I do believe I said the said track next to Stomlo High School.

    Damien Kell Damien Kell 8:32 am 30 Jul 20

    Dave Cochrane I don't go to Stromlo so didn't know it was different. They also possibly went through the appropriate process. I know there is a group of kids and parents in my suburb that are currently going through the process to have a track built. It is an annoying long process but potentially worth it so it doesn't get destroyed.

Carol Gainey Carol Gainey 7:41 am 29 Jul 20

Brings backs memories. My kids who are now 37 and 35 with their friends built a BMX track on the vacant land at the top a culdesac in Bonython. The construction and use kept them busy for many months. But like the facility you describe Tim, unfortunately the government removed it, probably for risk management and possible litigation reasons. A bit sad really, but having worked in the area of risk management in ACT government I know there are people who would sue the government if there child was injured using the track.

Kylie Wylie Kylie Wylie 7:40 am 29 Jul 20

Yet we tell kids to get outside more because they're not getting the recommended amount of exercise each day...

John Davison John Davison 7:38 am 29 Jul 20

Exactly the same thing happened at Bungendore straight after the bush fires and during the first months of Covid the local kids built a dirt jump section and of course the council knocked it down because of boring killjoys who are jealous that they have aged complaining the kids went to the council to discuss but that place is also full of scared process driven control freak killjoys who follow the orders of the first group we are in trouble as a society!

Toshak Akita Toshak Akita 7:36 am 29 Jul 20

My kids built some jumps in a clearway next to our house in Holt about 15 yrs or so ago, only to have them removed, the fun police in the A.C.T have been around for years..😡

Gregg Heldon Gregg Heldon 7:35 am 29 Jul 20

I think it's great that kids build these tracks. We used to do similar things growing up. It's great that kids want to be outdoors.

It's great and I wish them well with a positive outcome.

Greg White Greg White 7:27 am 29 Jul 20

Go for it kids and reward enterprise.

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