25 October 2022

New Coombs play space will amaze and astound - and continue to divide community

| Ian Bushnell
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Public playground

A section of the spectacular Ruth Park play space in Coombs. Photos: Ian Bushnell.

Excitement is building this week towards the official opening of a marvellous new play space in Coombs but not all are thrilled about the multimillion-dollar project and what may still be in the offing.

The proposal for Ruth Park, confusingly named after the Australian author, divided the community from the outset.

Residents in Edgeworth Parade opposite the Holden Creek Pond and nearby did not want any development on the land beside the pond, and when they bought into the suburb a play space, especially of the magnitude now built, was not in the Coombs Estate Development Plan.

The idea for a play space somewhere near John Gorton Drive had been around since 2012 but a site was not decided on until 2016 when the SLA decided to proceed with plans for one on the current site.

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The original proposal included six intergenerational play spaces, basketball and multi-sport courts, a kickabout area, shaded picnic area with barbecues, toilets, carpark and landscaping.

The Molonglo community was thrilled that the government would be building some facilities in the developing area, which was short on just about everything from shops to community centres.

Children's play space

The multimillion-dollar play space will keep children occupied for hours.

But neighbouring residents lamented the loss of amenity, peace and quiet and problems associated with having a public toilet block across the road.

They argued that the SLA proposal was way too big for the 0.59 ha site, a size that does not warrant public toilets under municipal standards and the parks hierarchy, and should be built elsewhere.

After two rounds of public consultation the SLA decided on a revised design without the sports areas, toilets and carpark.

There is no doubt that Ruth Park – which cost at least $7 million and all up could be $10 m – is a beautifully landscaped and enchanting play space for young children that will become a destination.

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That will be part of the next debate as the community and visitors who use it wonder why such a facility does not have toilets and only has street parking.

The lobbying has already begun online, and the park neighbours, while acknowledging the terrific design of the facility, are worried that the government will relent and tear up the landscaped kickabout area of the park to add these facilities.

They also are not happy with the light spill from across the road.

street parking

Street parking for the park may not be enough for what will become a destination.

There are also concerns about the emphasis on expensive play spaces in Molonglo, with Ruth Park joining the $6 m Ridgeline in Denman Prospect, and the new $5.4 m Blue Poles playground in Whitlam, all within a short distance of the spectacular National Arboretum playground.

All up, Molonglo will have more of these sorts of playgrounds than anywhere else in Canberra, at a cost of about $20 m.

By comparison, in early 2022, the government reported investing $5.8 m “since 2018 in delivering new and upgraded play spaces” across the whole of Canberra.

While young children will be overcatered for, there is not much for late-primary children and teens, such as basketball courts, indoor sports facilities or a skate park.

The Molonglo Community Forum is just glad to have a new park and will take on board community feedback about the facility.

So when Suburban Development Minister Yvette Berry officially opens Ruth Park on Thursday, the community will be celebrating, but some will be wondering whether the whole process could have been handled better.

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Whitepointer9:24 pm 28 Oct 22

My family (Coombs residents) love this new park!. However no toilets & insufficient parking WTF? Unfortunately I believe we can thank a select few local Cooms residents for that decision, after the SLA in their wisdom buckled the minority. Winge and win.
I hope a car park and toilets are in design phase.

Linda Seaniger3:53 pm 28 Oct 22

And less trees than any other suburb in Canberra. Hope city parks at least water those planted near the new play ground. The joga long track is ver Neglected. The townhouses opposite will use the parking.

Linda Seaniger3:43 pm 28 Oct 22

10 million for another playground. There is one already on the other side of the pond in North Coombs??? And still no toilet or parking. Apartment are so small now and have no outdoor space or courtyard were you could host a child’s Birthday party. Our town planners have no concept of function or design. I see Another under utilised structure and still no bridge more the Molonglo River.

Molonglo has more parks than anywhere else?

Probably because it has less backyard space than anywhere else for the kids to play in.

Makes someone happy… must make 10 other loud voices unhappy hey.

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