As much as I hate to admit it, I have to drive to and from work these days. The good thing is that my route home takes me past Clancy's and those pretty darn cool skateboarders who skate outside the derelict building opposite. Seeing them always gives me a lift – I’m grateful that at least someone can get enjoyment from such a mouldering, decrepit eyesore – and it makes me reminisce about a place making conference that I attended in Geelong a couple of years ago.
Trust me, I'm going somewhere with this...
Talk about a city coming back from the sick bed. Geelong used to have a justifiably dire reputation, but it has been brought back from the brink. Geelong’s waterfront is a great example of the benefits of:
· encouraging activity,
· bringing more people to live in the CBD; and
· reintroducing some fun.
Most typical of this approach is the city’s new skate park, located smack bang in the city centre and created to be enjoyed by all types of people. From a distance it looks more like a public art installation than a place for skaters, and even from my brief visit I could see it was clearly a community hub. It was great to see Geelong reaping the benefits of planning with people in mind and getting back to basics.
|Geelong's skate park|
So back to our own skateboarders. Is a crumby skate park located in one of the least salubrious parts of the East End the best we can do for them? Should out of sight and out of mind be good enough?
To me it’s time to get back to basics and bring back the care factor. I hear that a place like the Esplanade would be a great location for a multi-functional space for skateboarders, people watching, kids wanting to shoot some hoops, young bands wanting to play some tunes and even a graffiti cube. How cool would that be? They did it in Geelong. I bet we can do it here.
|Fremantle's current skate park in the East End|
Like most people, I’m a sucker for grand projects and big ideas like those in the City of Fremantle’s ambitious Economic Development Strategy. But I really believe that the small wins and planning for the people are what make a difference in the end.
How about making the most of the places we have already? The Economic Development Strategy might bear fruit, in, say, fifteen years. But if its success is achieved at the expense of tackling the low hanging fruit and reversing Fremantle’s decline through small wins in the meantime, then I think it would be a pyrrhic victory to say the least.
Bringing skateboarders back into the fold is just one way Council could build momentum and get back to basics. There are multitudes of ways our spaces can be maximised in the short term with just a little effort, just a little care.
To use a place making catchphrase, “let’s start with the petunias”.
If you'd like to see getting back to basics and a small win approach added to Council's toolbox then I'm your candidate for the City Ward. I'd love the opportunity to bring back the care factor to Fremantle.