Costigan / Lovely, new park where you can’t spend a penny

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The biggest attraction is the chance to sit by the lake… on this score the designers get top marks. It’s a great place to watch a sunset. Photo by Paul Costigan

THERE’S a danger in reviewing landscape works. Plants need to mature so that you can see whether they are effective and suitable. So with the new Canberra lakeside park, Henry Rolland Park, I will avoid commenting on the new plantings.

Paul Costigan.

Let’s hope that the ACT government maintains them and next year we should be able to see for ourselves how good the planting design is for this celebrated space.

Much has been made of the boardwalk, the jetty, the gym equipment, the patches of lawn and the barbeque areas. All these ingredients should add up to a space to be enjoyed by many. I agree it looks good, and having spent time observing how people reacted to the various elements, it should appeal to a mix of people.

Your family and friends could have a picnic by the lake, cook some food and have a few drinks. Then an issue will occur to you. There are no toilets. The nearest being across Commonwealth Avenue near the Regatta Point or further along the western shore at the boat shed. With the urge to go, this will be a challenge for individuals and for parents with children. It is a 15-minute walk in either direction (and then back again). I fear those bushes by the lake will be too attractive.

The gym equipment… obviously installed for the coming apartment dwellers, but where is the children’s play equipment for families? Photo by Paul Costigan

Then there’s the gym equipment. Obviously this was installed ready for the coming apartment dwellers. But what is missing is the children’s play equipment for families. So points for keeping some people fit but zero from parents looking to keep small children amused.

I made a point of observing the 10kph-shared roadway. Obviously it is very necessary to allow access to and from this area near Commonwealth Bridge. I believe in such shared spaces when designed correctly. This one is not so.

Most vehicles did more than 10kph with a couple treating the roadway as a normal street – hitting speeds closer to 50 or 60 kph. The other danger was some cyclists. This area is on the major around-the-lake cycle path and not every cyclist was making an effort to slow down. Given the shared space design and the ease with which the play areas join this road, parents will have to keep an eye on children as they run about – being alert for vehicles as well as fast-moving cyclists.

The 10kph-shared roadway… most vehicles did more than 10kph with a couple treating the roadway as a normal street. Photo by Paul Costigan

The biggest attraction is the chance to sit by the lake. On this score the designers get top marks. It’s a great place to watch a sunset. There is loads of seating, both the bench type and concrete walls in various locations, being immediately by the water as well as behind the boardwalk and alongside the green spaces – and more undercover with the barbecues.

Much of the money was spent on claiming back part of the lake, creating the boardwalk and the long jetty. These are great assets and only time will tell whether they are justified. Our lake provides many other opportunities for lakeside recreation and sitting, so we wait to see who comes to this new area.

Locals are very aware that this new park has another reason. It will now be used as part of the attraction for the sale of land nearby and the subsequent encouragement of people to buy into those new apartments along the West Basin. The so-called City to the Lake project, bringing loads of apartments along these shorelines, is a proposed development with too much wrong with it. Is there any way of having a serious rethink about how to use these precious lakeside spaces?

Henry Rolland Park is a place to visit (provided you do not need a toilet). There are many good bits, so let’s see how popular it becomes and how those 23,000 plants mature and what they do for the ambience and biodiversity of the area.

Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday life matters.

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