Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Skateboarders and small wins

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.


  1. Why don't you catch a bus?

  2. I have a car foisted on me as part of my salary package – which most people would probably love, but I sure don’t want it. If you know of a way I can negotiate to have the money instead, please let me know! It goes against my grain not to catch public transport or use our scooter.

  3. That doesn't mean you have to use it. Anyway ... building what you've suggested at the Esplanade would not be a small project. Not only would it be very expensive - relative to the City's budget - but the land is contested by many uses throughout the year. Working that through the City and the community would consume more resources than the benefit warrants, I say.

    By the way, have you considered being a strategic urban planner in Fremantle?

  4. Thanks for the comment.  I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to with your first point.  Regarding your second point, you’re certainly entitled to have that opinion!  Personally I think it would be best not to make assumptions about the benefits v costs of some small wins for skateboarders without actually getting some facts together.  It would be a shame to do nothing at all just because the ‘biggest and the best’ turns out to be too expensive – my wife is trying to break me of the habit of using clichés, but that would to me would be a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
    And have I considered being a strategic urban planner in Fremantle?  My aspiration is to be part of the decision-making process in Fremantle, that’s the role of a Councillor, not an officer.  So no, I think I’ll stick with running for Council if it’s alright with you!

  5. Thankyou Michael,

    Yet another "hole in one".

    I've recently come back from Europe and while in Berlin I sat watching a group of probably 30 or so young (15-25yrs old) skaters having fun in an inner city skate park. After an hour or so, a couple guys invited my group to have a go! So there we were a 26 (me), 32, 36 and 45yr old attempting to roll at least a few meters (without hideously embarrassing ourselves) on a skateboard with complete strangers on our holiday.

    This was a highlight of my trip and it was experiences like this that made me extend my 3 day fleeting glance of Berlin into a 9 day visit!

    And the whole time I kept thinking to myself "why can't we have this in Freo?"

    I want to see people having fun in my community not having them banished to a crumbling and derelict eye sore. It's about time Fremantle council (and business owners) realise the things that make Freo fun. A fun Freo will attract visitors and that ever elusive driving force that is the dollar!

    I am sure these are ambitious projects but just imagine it now: teens being invited into our community and being encouraged to have fun!

  6. Thanks Chris. I salute anyone who is game enough to give the old skateboard a whirl in front of the experts!

    I'm all for bringing back the fun and I'd love to see people having memorable experiences like the one you described in Freo one day.

  7. Hi guys, nice to hear Chris's story of the skaters in Berlin. Skaters usually are a friendly bunch! I am actually from Liverpool in the UK. Having travelled all over Eastern Australia over the years, I hope to be embarking upon the 24 hour trip to WA sometime in August/September hopefully for good, dependent upon me securing a sponsored job in the meantime! Anyway thanks for putting up the images of Fremantle skatepark... I am going to have a little roll around it when I get there!