Similar to initiatives that began during last year’s COVID-19 lockdown, a pop-up bike track known as the ‘Big Watson Dirt Jumps’ has recently arrived in the Canberra inner north suburb of Watson.
The track, complete with jumps and signage, is located at the suburb’s Irvine Street Greenway and was intended as an add on to the ‘Little Watson Dirt Jumps’ in a nearby park, which is designed for younger children.
Local dad Tom Corra says it all started when he had an idea for how to put a smile on not only his son’s face, but all the kids in his neighbourhood.
“I’m very well aware of the everyday homeschooling struggle and the need for an escape close to home,” he says.
“[The bike track] has very quickly received major support from the community.”
Now there’s a keen group of local families supporting the project.
Tom says the ‘Big Watson Dirt Jumps’ bike track fills two major needs in the Watson area. Firstly, it helps get kids out of the house during COVID-19 lockdown and away from their screens and the very sedentary nature of home learning.
“It’s also more COVID-19 safe than having multiple kids all touching play equipment,” he says.
Watson residents are keen bike riders. Nearby is Majura Pines for adults and teenagers, and there’s ‘Little Watson Dirt Jumps’ for younger kids, which Tom says helps to fill some of the gaps left by the facilities suited to more experienced riders.
Similar jumps popped up in 2020 in the nearby suburb of Ainslie.
After last year’s COVID-19 lockdown, the ACT Government supported Ainslie residents by enhancing a set of ‘homemade jumps’ and making them safer rather than demolishing them.
Local Ainslie residents, including children, lobbied the government to stop a proposed flattening of the jumps.
The jumps had previously been described as Canberra’s most dangerous sports facility.
However, unlike the Ainslie jumps, the bike track in Watson is only intended to be temporary.
“The moment school is back and lockdown has lifted, the track will be no more,” says Tom.
“Unlike lockdown, this track is here for a good time, not a long time.”
However, Tom says if there is a way to keep the track in place as a longer-term, more sustainable project, the community would be keen to do so.
“It’s really helped to revitalise the whole strip,” he says. “Now you see whole families going through and spending a bit of time there.
“But even if it had to be in a different location, we could potentially work with the government, too.”
The inner north community has long been calling for a ‘destination playground’.
Inner north parents have previously contacted the ACT Government to improve one local playground, but it was just painted, a seat installed and existing jumps flattened.
However, right now Tom is just happy to see so many parents and kids out and about enjoying the space with big smiles.
He urges the community to “stay safe, please enjoy and remember great teaching happens when we simply provide the resources and challenges, and get out of the way”.
You can get involved with the Irvine Street Greenway pop-up bike track project on social media, and use #irvinestreetgreenway to share your photos and experiences.