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
Conor Nakkan Conor Nakkan 7:17 pm 29 Jul 20

Holly Stapledon pure nanny state

    Holly Stapledon Holly Stapledon 7:25 pm 29 Jul 20

    Conor Nakkan i would represent these children in court 😩 a violation of the constitution

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.

    Pauly Berger Pauly Berger 10:01 pm 29 Jul 20

    Garry Peadon precisely why the act government would want to demolish it....

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.

    Cathy Louise Cathy Louise 8:21 pm 29 Jul 20

    Carl Ostermann in the early 2000s every state and territory government passed legislation to limit negligence actions in general, but particularly against local authorities. Negligence is now much, much harder to prove.

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

Kieren Dm Kieren Dm 5:51 pm 29 Jul 20

Elliot Langner let the kids/georgie play

Justin Thompson Justin Thompson 5:47 pm 29 Jul 20

This is what is wrong with today’s society. 😔

BrambleForge Kindred BrambleForge Kindred 5:19 pm 29 Jul 20

This happened in our street. My eldest and his mates did it years ago and then earlier this year a new bunch of kids did it. They made sure it wasn't near the footpath and blocked the area off when not in use to prevent possible injury but the fun police shut it down.

Alan Vogt Alan Vogt 5:14 pm 29 Jul 20

Agreed. Approve them, improve them, then help them build more... There's something like 800 (or more) parks across Canberra. There could (and should) be kids skills trails in almost all of them. Skills trails are very cheap to build, in fact with some seed funding and basic instruction, local community groups (locals, parents and their kids) could deliver them in very short order. Engaging the local community to build community assets is enjoyable and achieves results quickly. We helped build kids trails for Aranda Primary School in December 2018 (built in just a day) and it has been an absolute hit with kids. The outcome – More kids on bikes, learning valuable skills, enjoying the outdoors, communities and families coming together and contributing. A simple initiative implemented across Canberra would go a long way to creating a cycle-friendly culture and make Canberra an even more special place to live.

Alan - Kowalski Brothers Trailworks (volunteer trail group)

Amanda Galbraith Amanda Galbraith 4:55 pm 29 Jul 20

We walk through this park all the time.

Ainslie has to be the most boring suburb for young kids, there certainly aren’t any fun play spaces likes kambah adventure playground or the park at yerrabi ponds.

So watching these kids build this, during Covid shutdown, was really fun. It was a lot of work, they did it as a big group, some adults would often be there encouraging them to try the jumps etc.

and there is still plenty of room for other kids, adults and dogs to wander around. If we want kids to get off devices, here’s a great way to encourage them.

Christine Trebilco Christine Trebilco 4:54 pm 29 Jul 20

Yes I think it’s so to see kids out and about

Tori Holt Tori Holt 4:26 pm 29 Jul 20

So nice to see kids are still building tracks and being kids 😊

Debbie Lizars Debbie Lizars 3:14 pm 29 Jul 20

There is a house in Tuggeranong that has transformed their front lawn into a BMX track

Brad Falk Brad Falk 3:00 pm 29 Jul 20

Let’s kids be kids for goodness sakes. It’s a part of growing up. Better than them playing video games all day 🤦🏽‍♂️

Anthony Gordo Anthony Gordo 2:50 pm 29 Jul 20

Some Govt sportsgrounds are bumpier than that and we have to pay to use them!

Felix Stewart Felix Stewart 2:49 pm 29 Jul 20

So? Me and my mates used to make BMX jumps at the oval just shy of Mt rogers primary when we were kids. No government ever came after us

Karen Bobbin Saleta Karen Bobbin Saleta 2:35 pm 29 Jul 20

The ones my kids and their friends built was taken away aswell. My kids were devastated. Let kids be kids!!!!

Graham Scarth Graham Scarth 2:21 pm 29 Jul 20

Look at a lot of the council's in NSW building pump tracks that are used all the time not the ACT government though. Best things to keep kids of screens.Good to see kids showing some initiative. Shame the government don't

Adrian Norris Adrian Norris 2:09 pm 29 Jul 20

Council has built a great track at Voyager Park Red Hill.

    Lisa Sly Lisa Sly 3:08 pm 29 Jul 20

    Adrian Norris it’s great for the little kids, but too easy for bigger kids.

    Adrian Norris Adrian Norris 9:33 pm 29 Jul 20

    Lisa Sly good point

Shane Miller Shane Miller 1:59 pm 29 Jul 20

There's one in Charny/Dunlop down behind the community garden and netball courts, just a few small jumps. Then the Snake Run up the top of Charny.

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