Confusion over which age group will use the proposed pump track at Suffolk Park has raised further questions over whether community consultation for the track was adequate.
Suffolk Park residents have joined the community garden in voicing their concerns about a lack of transparency over stage two of the pump track at the Linda Vidler Memorial Parklands, which was approved by councillors in December.
‘There’s a lot of confusion because on one level it looks like a really small children’s track, but the adolescents are all thrilled we’re having a pump track,’ said Kerry Wright, whose house backs onto the park.
According to the president of the Suffolk Park Progress Association (SPPA), Donald Maughan, 10 or 12 meetings have been held in the park to facilitate community consultation about the pump track.
Needed for youth
‘We need to build a pump track which is effective for the youth of the area,’ Mr Maughan said.
The track has support from the Northern Rivers Dirty Wheels Mountain Bike Club (NRDWMBC) which has offered to run workshops there when the track is built. All of this prompted residents and current park users to complain at the prospect of teens on BMX bikes causing a ruckus in the park.
Clarifying their support of the pump track NRDWMBC president, Lindsay Wootten, told The Echo that the club is not based in Alstonville and that, ‘We strongly support the pump track because we want to encourage our young people getting outside and being active on bikes as an alternative to spending time in front of screens!
‘The club’s offer to run workshops is just that, an offer to run the occasional workshop on pump track riding skills if local young people would like that. Again, we just want to encourage our young people to be active.’
But the pump track designs on Council’s website show an asphalt track with bumps between 30 and 50cm high.
Mayor, Simon Richardson, said in a letter to concerned residents that he expects the track to be predominantly used by children, especially those on scooters, with parental supervision.
Yet the mismatched expectations are causing frustration.
It is not clear how much the community poll organised by the SPPA was influenced by track supporters from outside the area and whether they outvoted local residents a local resident told The Echo.
Cr Simon Richardson told The Echo, ‘Both younger kids with scooters, and older kids, will use it as it will have excitement and challenges etc for both demographics’.
‘The purpose of a pump track, as opposed to a mountain bike track or BMX track or even a skate park, is that it is designed for a smooth ride.
‘I remember being at a packed SPPA meeting when bordering neighbours opposed the creation of the community garden, as they thought people would make noise and shed doors closing would be loud and “anti-social elements” would access it at all hours.
‘Now, as time has passed and reality has consumed assumption, this same use is heralded for its quietness and benefit to the local community. I believe, in time, those currently fearful of what they perceive to be a loud and anti-social use within the wider park will soften their position when the reality is understood and experienced’.
This was supported by Mr Wootten who told The Echo that, ‘The suggestion that the pump track will encourage teens on BMX bikes to cause a ruckus is based purely on supposition. Personally, I have found our younger members to be delightful young people who are intelligent and respectful. How about as a community we embrace our youth, make them feel welcome and encourage them to participate in healthy pursuits!’
Meanwhile, Labor councillor, Paul Spooner, who voted against stage two, said, ‘If it’s bringing people into the area, why’s it being located at Linda Vidler Park? It should be located at the Cavanbah Centre’.
♦ The story has been updated with comments from the Northern Rivers Dirty Wheels Mountain Bike Club Inc.
♦ Philippa Clark is an Echo intern.