Adelaide Parklands vs The Suburbs

photoAdelaide is a strange place sometimes.

This morning I took my 6 and 3 yo to Orphanage Park in Goodwood (thats Harriet learning to ride her new pink bike in the foreground).  The park was purchased by the City of Unley around 2000 and has been converted to a public park with a great playground.   It is extremely well patronised, in fact every time I visit the park (say twice a month) it is always packed with families, dog walkers, BBQers, fitness freaks and others.  My kids (and I) love it.

The interesting thing about the playground, which is well fenced, is how relatively small it is.

From memory, it was designed by Outerspace Landscape Architects, and is well designed and executed and well maintained by the City of Unley.  There is plenty of immediate car parking, clean toilets, and the surrounding park is well integrated.

There are large beautiful Eucalypts to provide shade, there is an integrated tennis court (which is also used as a bike track, scooter road, football kicking area, and a general running around crazily area – and all at once!) and plenty of seating.

Whilst I was sitting under the shade of one of the remnant trees, I started thinking…’why didnt I take the kids to the parklands?’.

About 5 minutes away down Goodwood Road are the ‘south’ Parklands. A massive space, with trees and grass. And thats about it.  No real redeeming features, no real sense of arrival, discovery, adventure, play, experience nor are there nodes or areas for multiple uses like Orphanage Park does so well.

I am sure there are some of the above elements in disparate parts of the parklands, but where are they all successfully combined? Bonython Park springs to mind, but it is a day trip – not so much a ‘duck down for an hour’ park. It is on the north western side, which is a longer trip.

There are so many singular elements of the parklands that are ok, but where are the series of really well designed, accessible, integrated, patronised and usable ‘parklets’ (or parks within the park)?  Why are we only planning one super playspace in Bonython Park? Apart from the obvious funding problems, I think once again we Adelaidians have forgotten our Parklands.  We allow a small group of ‘preservationists’ to drive the parklands agenda, and we have not considered what a potential future focused, functional, well governed, well used, and well ‘owned’ space the Adelaide Parklands could be.

If, say, we allowed the adjacent councils some say or at least some input into their local governance and maintenance, balanced and controlled with strong and clear guidelines, we would have a far more integrated series of spaces rather than an empty moat around the CBD.

There are some initiatives by the Adelaide City Council, through their stewardship of the Parklands, however it is not really wholesome or visionary.   And year in, year out, we loose Victoria Park to the ‘race’ because we cant or wont build a permanent grandstand which would have other benefits year-round.

So, how is it a local council can not only purchase some former privately owned land, they can also design, develop and maintain a small local park which is so well patronsied, yet the Parklands fails to achieve this singular feat in more than one spot?

Where are the howling masses demanding we create more Orphanage Parks, more activities, more ‘connectedness’ around our parklands into the suburbs as well as treating OUR parklands as more than a museum piece?  

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