MANNINGHAM COUNCIL has responded to an outcry from Wonga Park residents around the redevelopment of the historic Golligulch Playground.
Council initially released three options for the playgrounds in Wonga Park, to remodel two areas, the Gooligulch Playground and the Dudley Reserve playground.
Council’s Your Say website proposed removing the current Gooligulch playground and replacing it with either a Nature Playspace for young children, a ropes course aimed at teens, or a small basic facility, which would be offset with a “destination” playground constructed in Dudley Reserve.
However, following a flurry of comments on social media, a petition and numerous letters to Council, the website was amended to acknowledge the importance of the Gooligulch Playspace, Council added a comments section to the survey, which they extended by two weeks.
Frank Vassilacos, Acting Manager Integrated Planning at Manningham Council said in a letter to the Warrandyte Community Association, which has been provided to the Dairy: “We acknowledge that the initial material we provided through our website may not have adequately represented the existing historical elements.
“For that, we sincerely apologise for any angst or concern this may have created”.
Niall Sheehy , Manningham Council’s Acting Director City Planning and Community told the Diary: “Manningham Council is currently seeking feedback on proposals for play spaces in the Wonga Park area, including at Wonga Park Reserve and Dudley Reserve, to understand the needs of the local community and how they may have changed since the play spaces were first installed”.Wonga Park resident, Ros Forrest told the Diary that the community is upset both about the lack of consultation to this point, and that none of those options for the redevelopment include keeping the current unique playground.
Mr Sheehy said the three proposals outline new possibilities for Wonga Park Reserve and Dudley Reserve that may increase play options for a wider range of ages.
He said that the nature play space would “retain the theme and style of the existing Gooligulch Playspace”.
The Gooligulch Playspace was created in 1998, designed by Cathy Kiss, a former Planner with M
anningham Council, themed around a Graeme Base book My Grandma lived in Gooligulch.
The author was in attendance at the opening, signing books for people.
“It was a big event for our little suburb and a great talking point with all the school children in the community.
“It was so nice to have a playground that was very unique, but one which also blended in well in our semi-rural environment — it still does to this day,” Ms Forrest said.
She said many people have contacted her on Facebook saying that they use the playground, they appreciate that it is unique and do not want it demolished.
“Having said that, I have no objection to Council adding extra play equipment to the area for older children, but not at the expense of the current infrastructure,” she said.
“I would love to see this unique piece of history remain and I gather a lot of other people feel the same.”
Other people within the community have welcomed the proposal, with local resident Amy Cresswell posting that: “Council are wanting to provide us with beautiful new, innovative, safe and exciting new play spaces for our children and I can’t believe that anyone would be against this.
“I’m 100% for my rates dollars going towards this cause, it’s wonderful!”
She reminded objectors that first and foremost “children’s happiness is what this is all about”.
The Diary spoke with Author Graeme Base, who was pragmatic in his response to the news that the facility may be revamped.
“After 20 years I’m sure it must be in need of work — I’d love to see it live on, but everything has its day and it’d be silly to hang on to something if it is past its useful life.
We had heaps of fun designing and building all the bits and pieces for the playground back in the day but it’s a mistake to be too precious about one’s creations — if it can be refurbished for a reasonable cost then great — if not, let’s all hope some else fun and imaginative can be created to take its place.”
Following the public outcry Council amended the Your Say website to reflect that the Gooligulch theme would be retained in one of the options.
The council has three options on the table:
Gooligulch’ playground is replaced with a destination nature play space, that will retain the theme and style of the existing Gooligulch play space, while including a wide range of new nature play experiences and an informal picnic area designed for children between the ages of two and 12 years.
The current play equipment at Dudley Reserve will be replaced with a small local play space suitable for children between the ages of two and 12 years.
Gooligulch playground is removed and a new nature themed destination obstacle/ropes course aimed at children over 13 years and young adults.
This would be installed near the BMX track and tennis courts.
The current play equipment at Dudley Reserve will be replaced with a small play space suitable for children between the ages of two and 12 years.
Gooligulch playground is removed and minor improvements are carried out to an existing small playground alongside the lower oval at Wonga Park Reserve.
This playground caters for ages of two to 12 years.
The current play equipment at Dudley Reserve will be replaced with a large destination play space suitable for children between the ages of two and 12 years.
Mr Sheehy said Council understands that the existing Gooligulch play space “is unique and a very cherished feature in Wonga Park”.
“In the 25 years since its installation, Gooligulch Playground at Wonga Park Reserve has experienced considerable deterioration and is in need of replacement,” he said.
Mr Sheey said the images on the Your Say website were chosen to help illustrate the possible options, “but no designs have been prepared at this stage”.
“We are currently consulting with the community to seek feedback and hear suggestions.
“We acknowledge that there is also a strong community connection to the Gooligulch Playground, particularly with the historic elements of the existing play space.
“We are keen to hear from the community to let us know which elements are important to them and how we can best address these themes as part of a customised design,” Mr Sheehy said.
He said following the current consultation to understand the location and type of play space the community would prefer, a detailed design proposal will be prepared and made available for community feedback later this year.
Former Councillor and now declared candidate for Yarra Ward in the upcoming election, Meg Downie has blamed the Council for lack of maintenance that has led to the deterioration of the playground.
“I was frustrated to hear that some time ago Council decided not to maintain this unique playground and now plans have been drawn up without input from the community,” she said on the Your Say forum.
President of the Warrandyte Community Associate, and candidate for Yarra Ward in the forthcoming Manningham Council election, Carli Lange-Boutle, told the Diary that she has advocated for a community consultation panel to work on the final design for the play space.
Ms Lange-Boutle said she has been advised the Council will “involve the relevant historical society and community representatives… to incorporate their input into a future customised design”.
Mr Vassilacos said: “a detailed design proposal will be prepared and made available for community feedback later this year – no doubt, incorporating the existing unique character”.
The initial round of community consultation has been extended and will now close on Monday, September 14.