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.
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.