Fast track the Thirroul skate park, says council candidate

Greens candidate at the coming council election, Jess Whittaker is calling on Wollongong City Council to fast track funding to build the Thirroul skatepark.

FAST tracking a proposed skate park at Thirroul would help the mental health of young people as the Illawarra comes out of lockdown, says one candidate in the coming Wollongong local government elections.

Greens candidate Jess Whittaker is calling on Wollongong City Council to fast track funding to build new skateparks and start the process of upgrading old facilities. 

“There’s already money allocated in the budget for skateparks in Wollongong and Thirroul, although this is potentially years away,” Ms Whittaker said.

“People of Thirroul have been crying out for a skatepark for decades. Wollongong has a bunch of ramps sitting out the front of the youth centre. If we start work on Thirroul and Wollongong, it will mean we can start planning upgrades at other skatepark sites at Dapto and Port Kembla.

“We built a fantastic park at Berkeley seven years ago. This is a great space for people of all ages to enjoy skating, we need to build on that success and roll out more of these facilities across the city.

“Our kids have been in lockdown for months now and we are seeing mental health issues among many people in our community. Fast tracking this funding is just one way we can give our young people something to celebrate. We have some catching up to do.

“Skateboarding is a great sport. At the recent Tokyo Olympics 18-year-old Keegan Palmer won Australia’s first Olympic gold medal in skateboarding. It wasn’t just a Gold medal for Australia, the culture of the sport these athletes brought to the world stage really caught people’s attention. 

“Skateparks bring together people from all ages and walks of life. I’ve especially noticed what a great sport it is for young women. Skateboarding is a mix of social interaction and skill progression. It’s not about competing, it’s about having fun and that’s why young women really take to it if they’re encouraged and given the opportunity.

“We have many talented young skaters in the Illawarra but they’re not able to progress because we just don’t have the facilities. Their parents spend many weekends driving them to Oran Park, Sydney Park and Bateau Bay. A great skatepark in Wollongong should be built with a closed bowl (the type of park Kieran Woolley, Poppy Starr Olsen and Keegan Palmer competed in Tokyo) as a major feature. 

“We hear endlessly about needing to activate the Wollongong CBD. Instead of this obsession with having cars drive through the wonderful mall, how about we work on creating culture in the city. A skatepark would help with this,” Ms Whittaker said.

A Council spokesperson said it knows the northern suburb communities, as well as other communities around the Wollongong Local Government Area, are eager to see ongoing investment in skating and bike infrastructure in their community.

“Council’s Infrastructure Delivery Plan 2020/21-2023/24 outlines our current priorities in delivering new skating facilities across the city, including in the northern suburbs,” the spokesperson said.

“Council has started preliminary sites assessments for a facility in the Wollongong CBD with final site selection to be determined to see construction in 2022/23. At this point in time, the evaluation of potential sites for a northern suburbs skate park is yet to begin with construction planned  for 2023/24. We’ll consult with our broader community as we get closer to starting this project to discuss the location and concept designs.

“Skate parks are just one way we invest in outdoor recreation facilities for our community. Over the past few months Council has invested in a number of dirt bike tracks in different suburbs around our community. By Christmas 2021, we’re aiming to have completed three new dirt bike tracks – located in Fairy Meadow, Dapto and our northern suburbs (either Woonona or Bulli).”

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About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of Australian pubs and associated industries for over 30 years. He is working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick managed several community newspapers. He has been editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), the Sydney city newspaper, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.


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