26 September 2021

Canberra's playground vandalism problem continues as Yerrabi Pond's flying foxes out of action

| James Coleman
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Yerrabi Pond District Park playground

The flying foxes at Yerrabi Pond District Park in Gungahlin are currently closed. Photo: Damien Larkins.

Two of the major attractions at Yerrabi Pond District Park in Gungahlin have been temporarily closed, with blame lying at the feet of vandals.

An ACT Government spokesperson said two flying foxes were removed on Friday, 17 September, due to vandalism to the rubber soft-fall under the structures creating safety issues.

“The ACT Government already had in place plans to replace the rubber soft-fall before the end of 2021, and is now investigating if the replacement of the material and reinstatement of the flying fox can be undertaken sooner,” said a spokesperson.

Yerrabi Pond District Park includes a large playground, barbecue area and plenty of parking off Wunderlich Street. Most famously, it is home to two of the biggest flying foxes in Canberra.

The news of their closure has been met with disappointment from many locals.

Damaged playground at Yerrabi Pond District Park

The damage done by vandals to the rubber soft-fall at Yerrabi Pond District Park. Photo: Damien Larkins.

Canberra mum Astoria Bright has been exploring all of the ACT’s playgrounds since last year with her son, Elijah. These experiences have been collated on her website, Playgrounds of Canberra, and ranked according to popularity.

Yerrabi Pond District Park sits at number two for the Gungahlin region, just behind Moncrieff Community Recreation Park.

Astoria says vandalism at playgrounds is a regular and recurring issue which is hard to get on top of. More often than not, the mess is left to ACT City Services to deal with.

“I have seen one event of intentional vandalism during the past six months,” she says. “Passing through Kambah Adventure Park one morning, I spotted school-aged teenagers intentionally causing damage to the liberty swing, a fenced part of the playground meant for wheelchair users.

“It can be quite daunting when you’re with your child or family. For your own safety, why would you approach them?”

Astoria says the most prolific form of playground vandalism is graffiti.

Graffiti on playground at Well Station Park in Harrison

Graffiti at Well Station Park in Harrison. Photo: Astoria Bright.

“This is so saddening to see as the ACT Government has provided many legal graffiti sites across Canberra,” she says. “Graffiti affects the visual enjoyability of the playground, especially when it’s offensive, threatening, racist or plain obscene.”

Astoria says it is important to report suspected incidences of vandalism to Access Canberra’s Fix My Street portal, but to also bear in mind that not everything will be the result of deliberate damage as play equipment wears out and eventually breaks over time.

“A parent could simply be playing on a seesaw when the lifespan of the spring gives out,” she says. “The person could then leave the park thinking scheduled checks will catch the problem. The next person after them may then presume vandalism has occurred.”

Whatever the case, Astoria says that all things considered, ACT City Services does a good job getting damaged play equipment up to scratch again.

Yerrabi Pond District Park

Yerrabi Pond District Park bustling with kids out to burn off some lockdown energy. Photo: Damien Larkins.

“I have lodged a significant number of ‘Fix My Street’ reports in regards to playgrounds, and have seen positive results come from many,” she says.

In the case of graffiti, a fast resolution can deter a person from repeating it. Although Astoria sees a stronger deterrent in CCTV cameras.

“We have zero form of CCTV footage in our playgrounds, not even in the major district ones such as Yerrabi Pond District Park, John Knight Memorial Park, Boundless and Kambah Adventure Park,” says Astoria.

The closest playground equipped with this level of security is Goulburn’s iconic Victoria Park, which is watched over by a total of 21 CCTV cameras.

“It is my hope that ACT City Services continues with repairs of vandalised equipment, and trials CCTV surveillance on one of Canberra’s major playgrounds to see if it prevents future vandalism,” says Astoria.

She says there is an important need to see the flying fox duo return to Yerrabi Pond District Park because it is “nearly one of the last of its kind left in Canberra as we move towards more modern ‘destination playgrounds'”.

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