It can’t be a true Canberra suburb without a playground. And sure enough, the new suburbs of Taylor and Coombs are getting the treatment.
Don’t expect to find your traditional arrangement of swings, slides and monkey bars, though. There’s a new kid on the block called ‘nature play’ and it seems ACT families are all over it.
The movement harks back to simpler times and has swept the nation in response to the shrinking backyard, the rise of apartment living and alarm at the increasing amount of time children are staring into screens.
The ACT Suburban Land Agency (SLA) has been carving out such a space along Judith Macintosh Crescent in Taylor. When it opens shortly, it will be the third of its type in the Gungahlin region.
There’ll be balancing log trails, loose stones and pebbles, loose sticks and branches, stepping stones and logs, a loose rock campfire, three tepee tents, and other bits and pieces of purely natural equipment.
The honour of the first nature play space went to Giralang in 2018. This was followed by three more in 2019 – Glebe Park in the city, one in Farrer, and another at Eddison Park in Woden. Kambah Adventure Playground has been overhauled to the same principles, while more recently, Yerrabi Pond District Park opened last year.
For those a little older in the Taylor district, the play space also incorporates a dirt BMX bike track made up of undulating bumps, a sloped turn, and a series of quick, curving turns. An asphalt path girds its sides so people can watch from a safe distance, while a signposted point in the track gives pedestrians a chance to cross safely.
The space is edged in on all sides by native gardens and overlooked by a stony hill-top viewing area so siblings, friends and families can keep a watchful eye.
Meanwhile, a forest-themed play metropolis is coming to a 9,379 square-metre space alongside Edgeworth Parade in Coombs. Suburban Land ACT has approved the sketches and the building is expected to be completed by March 2022.
It will take the general principles of nature play but build on it with more traditional equipment such as swings, dual slides, spider nets, carousels, in-ground trampolines and more.
The original design proposal included a toilet block and recreational sports facility, but both have been shelved in favour of more seating and picnic areas alongside Holden Creek.
This followed criticism from the community over how close the toilets would be to residential houses and will make it the 15th playground in the Molonglo Valley to miss out on public amenities. The only one to score them in recent times was Ridgeline Park in Denman Prospect.
The playground was also pushed west of the initial site to minimise the visual impact of the playground from the Edgeworth Parade.
For those desperate to get the kids out of the house but not sure where to look, Canberran mum Astoria Bright has done the hard yards with her website, Playgrounds of Canberra.
Since last year, she and her son Elijah have extensively documented photos, information, and ratings to create a comprehensive map of playgrounds across the ACT.