Child’s play perfection in city’s green heart

ADVENTURE: Richley Reserve’s $1.5 million playground will open to excited youngsters this weekend. Picture: Newcastle City CouncilA priority of mine for almost a decade as a councillor and lord mayor of Newcastle has been to protect, preserve and improve Blackbutt Reserve, the uniquely Novocastrian ‘green heart’ of our city.

I want future generations to be able to enjoy the wonderful open space, natural beauty and ever-improving amenity of Blackbutt Reserve for decades to come.

To me, our parks and playgrounds are one of the vital building blocks for creating strong, vibrant and connected local communities.

That’s why I’mproudto say that at 10am on Saturday, we will open a spectacular $1.5 million adventure playground that’s set to excite many young Novocastrians – and make Blackbutt’sRichleyReserve on the northern side of the city’s bushland jewel a major regional attraction.

As the first of its kind in Newcastle, the sprawling playground will encourage toddlers to young teens to make hundreds of decisions before taking on challenges – physically, emotionally and socially – in a flurry of fun under the gum trees.

As well as equipping them to confront risks in preparation for successful, independent lives, the playground will instil within them an appreciation for the natural environment and at the same time offer their parents and carers a new place to forge new friendships.

A focus on nature-based play has seen environmental education incorporated into the playground’s design and a broad range of play experiences included, together with shade, seating, barbecues and green space for picnics.

While kids looking for a challenge will literally climb into the tree canopy via a rope tunnel, and play with sand, rocks and sticks on the ground, necessary safety audits have been conducted to prevent unreasonable risk.

RichleyReserve’s adventure-style playground also provides much better access and inclusivity for kids with mobility challenges.

A specially-designed carousel in the middle will put wheelchair-bound children at the centre of the fun, after they’ve arrived via new access paths.

This playground is part of Blackbutt’s wider $10 million upgrade and will be followed with new amenities and a kiosk to complement the existing facilities on theCarnleyAvenue side of the reserve.

It’s also part of the City of Newcastle’s long-term strategic plan to create vibrant and activated publicspaces, andprotect and enhance our natural environment.

Adventure playgrounds stimulate young imaginations to ensure that “play time” is not overly prescribed.

They emphasise the use of natural materials in flexible formats that compliments Blackbutt Reserve’s unique bushland environment.

Landscape architect David Moir, who believes Newcastle City Council is “courageous” for buildingRichley Reserve’sbespoke facility, said it was designed with the surrounding bush front of mind.

Indeed, the timber equipment, smooth river stones and a sandpit with water fountain provide a natural adventure in keeping with the unique bushland reserve.

And clear sight lines right across the 60 metre-long playground will add to enjoyment for children and their parents alike.

Blackbutt Reserve encompasses more than 182 hectares of bushland.

Each year it draws more than 100,000 visitors to its nature trails, wildlife exhibits and recreational facilities, a number that’s only set to increase with the addition of the adventure playground.

All up, Newcastle City Council provides and maintains 116 playgrounds across our local government area to prepare kids for the challenges ahead and foster a diverse, inclusive community.

Each year up to five are renewedunder our annual works program, with at least $150,000 invested into each and every renewal project.

Stevenson Park, Mayfield West,CressingtonWay Reserve, Wallsend, and Fletcher Street Reserve, Adamstown,will all be renewed this year.

This comes after playgrounds were completely overhauled atGrahame Park, Carrington, Bull andTourleStreet Reserve, Mayfield West, Smith Park, Hamilton North, and Wallsend Park in the last financial year.

TheRichleyReserve playground will be officially opened at 10am on Saturday, September 1, amid a carnival atmosphere featuring inflatables, face painting, reptile displays and food stalls.

Nuatali Nelmes is the lord mayor of the City of Newcastle