16 May 2019

How the nature play space will transform Glebe Park

| Ian Bushnell
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A sketch of the Forest Adventure Course planned for Glebe Park, from the tender documents.

The kids will be taking over the north-west corner of Glebe Park in the city when Stage 1 of a nature play space with four different play zones is built.

The project, now open to tender, will transform that part of the park, a popular retreat for shoppers and office workers during the week and a favourite spot for families on the weekend. The city, with a growing population due to high-rise residential development, has been identified as an area with limited play opportunities.

The ACT Government announced last November that it would spend $1.9m to build three new nature play spaces – in Glebe Park, Eddison Park in Woden and near the shops – and upgrade 24 playgrounds across the nation’s capital, after a playgrounds community consultation.

The Transport Canberra and City Services tender is for Glebe Park Stage 1, with other sections of the park nearby slated for further play areas.

The designs for the play space, from Aspect Studios, are the result of the consultation last year including a forum, online survey, pop-ups in the park and sessions with school and child care groups. Nature play spaces are meant to be challenging, multi-sensory experiences that encourage children to play together creatively.

The tender documents show the western edge of the park near Bunda and Akuna Streets will be home to Pea Gravel and Water Play, Enchanted Journey among the existing elm trees, a Forest Adventure Course, and the Tree House, a raised structure closer to the canopy.

Participants selected the site as the best location due to its access to adjacent streets and the Canberra Centre, grass, shade and its connection to the main network of paths and existing playground. Their favourite nature play opportunities were climbing, fun places to hide and water play.

Constraints include the distance to the toilets and potential conflict with lunch time users during the week.

The play space is designed to be an inclusive, all abilities facility and an Accessibility Report has been prepared by SQC Architecture.

It is meant to have minimal impact on the trees and construction materials are to be sympathetic to the existing character of Glebe Park with the use of timber and neutral toned colours. Other materials include steel, stone, rope, mulch and wetpour rubber.

The Pea Gravel and Water Play zone will include a manual hand pump providing potable water, tray tables, a dry creek bed for drainage, pea gravel pit and cover, and seating, all surrounded by ‘sensory planting’. The tender document flags the future use of sand.

The Enchanted Journey links the water play area to the Forest Adventure Course, and includes a cluster of three play houses designed to encourage children to build their own. It leads across a path intersection to the existing playgrounds. There are timber stumps and beams for balancing, with wind chimes hanging from the trees.

The Adventure Course – consisting of timber posts, stumps and beams, netting and ropes – provides challenges for all ages, and links seamlessly to the Tree House, which is situated higher amongst the existing tree canopy.

It includes an accessible ramp to a viewing platform, seating above and below, and various play opportunities including rope ladder, fireman’s pole, binoculars, spider’s rope web, balancing edge and monkey bars. The addition of a basket swing has also been recommended.

The tender closes on 23 May.

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