Skate park call for Georges River

Ramping up the campaign: Councillor Sandy Grekas with local youth include Josha and Riley, at front, who presented the council with a petition calling for a skate park to be built in the Georges River local government area.
Ramping up the campaign: Councillor Sandy Grekas with local youth include Josha and Riley, at front, who presented the council with a petition calling for a skate park to be built in the Georges River local government area.

The voice of youth was heard loud and clear in Georges River council chambers this week and their message was - local kids need a skate park.

Two keen skateboarders, Riley Allison, 10, of Mortdale and Joshua Esber separately addressed the council on the need for a skate park.

They both independently started petitions calling for a new skate park in the area and between them, they’ve obtained 245 signatures from like-minded kids and adults.

Riley addressed the council giving his reasons for the need for a skate park.

“I know I am only 10. But having a skate park will add so much to my life and my friends,” he said.

And it would get kids of their social media devices and make them exercise, he added.

“You develop a lot of experience and skills when you ride in a skate park.

“The closest skate park for us is Olds Park and there are only two drop-ins. They have dangerous cracks at the bottom where you go down.

“The best one I have been to is in Helensburgh. It’s 41km away and my parents can only take me there a couple of times a year.”

His mate, Joshua supported him.

Joshua told the council that he has to travel 30 minutes to get to the skate park at Greenhills Beach in Sutherland and can only go there once every two weeks.

He said he sees hundreds of kids using skateboards and scooters on the streets which is dangerous.

Riley’s mum, Jaquetta Wright said he was inspired to start his petition for a skate park after visiting Jubilee Park at Mortdale.

“We had just come back from travelling up the north coast. Each town we visited on our holiday had a skatepark,” she said. “Towns seemed to acknowledge the importance of supplying their youth access to a free and healthy sport.:

Jaquetta said both courts at the Jubilee Park had “over 30 skooters and not a ball in sight.”

A post on Facebook asking questioning the need for a skate park drew almost 100 comments in support.

“At first I was apprehensive about allowing my kids to ride at skate parks, however, that apprehension soon went as I was blown away by the politeness and respect for each individual’s ability to ride the ramps,” she said.

“Get kids off devices. It’s what is said between all parents. When on devices they are not developing social skills. They are not conversing face to face with others. They are not problem solving in the real world. They are not riding around the streets like you and I did as kids. Providing them with a local skate park will provide such a huge network of skills to our kids.”

Riley and Joshua were supported by Councillor Sandy Grekas who congratulated them on their hard work and tabled their petitions with the council.

She also submitted a motion calling on the council to “do the right thing by our younger citizens”  and investigate potential locations for the construction of a skate park within the Georges River local government area with a report including a construction budget to come back to the council for its March meeting.

“The success of Jubilee Park playground has made people realise that there’s plenty of leisure options for young children and adults, but not as many for older kids and teenagers,” Cr Grekas said.

“The lack of facilities has been aptly illustrated in Oatley where kids have been skating/scootering in the station car park because there’s nowhere else to go.

“The mix of cars and kids on skateboards, bikes and skateboards is potentially very dangerous. I’m not saying this to get them in trouble, I’m using it as a concrete example of what happens when proper facilities aren’t provided.

“Some might say that we already have a skate park at Olds Park. Two ramps built in the 80s that are falling apart do not maketh a skatepark.

“If you Google “skate parks in Sydney”, the one in Olds Park doesn’t even show up.

“The skate ramps at Olds Park might’ve been fine when they were built in 1986, they weren’t even cutting edge then, but they don’t even come close to servicing the needs of the kids in the Georges River area.

“Reconstruction of what’s there at Olds Park might be the best option, alternatively somewhere new like Beatty Reserve on Roberts Road, or perhaps in Kogarah.

“I don’t think we should be talking about only one venue, I think we need to be seriously looking at a skatepark in both the eastern and western areas of the local government area.”

Cr Grekas said one skate park could not service the entire LGA of 150,000 residents, 20 per cent of whom are aged 0 to 17.

“We’re way behind other councils,” she waid. “Our residents are having to travel outside of the area to skateparks at Greenhills, Menai, Marrickville, Engadine, Revesby.

“This is really something we should have provided by now.”

Cr Gekas said there is a “perception problem” with skate parks - that teenagers plus skateboards equals graffiti and anti-social behaviour.

“This is an outdated view,” she said.

“But to alleviate those concerns, install CCTV, install good lighting, limit the hours. It’s clearly not an insurmountable problem if other Councils have successfully introduced them.”

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