30 July 2020

Canberra’s most dangerous sports facility

| Tim Gavel
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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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russianafroman4:54 pm 02 Aug 20

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

ChrisinTurner7:28 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.

HiddenDragon7:23 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.

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

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.

russianafroman4:52 pm 02 Aug 20

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

Yes, we have become a litigious, risk-averse society. Intolerant of others, especially kids having any kind of natural fun and adventure. We routinely and roboticaly vote in a local government whose only role is to impose regulations and restrictions. Even helping out voluntarily in the community attracts visits from finger-wagging officials. Whose fault is the nanny state? Take a look in the mirror. We get the government we deserve. We have Barr. We have the Greens. What do you expect?

Not the government’s fault. society is full of complainers that will sue them if someone falls over and hurts themselves on these structures. Only takes one person, one parent with an unsupervised kid falling off and the lawsuit is served and the taxpayer is footing the cost.

If you want your kids to have these facilities, campaign for formal facilities to be build in the locations. You can’t fix society.

I think it is fantastic. Our local kids did the same. The “track” should become part of the park.

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.

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