The new all-accessible playground carousal at Spencer Park in Merimbula is finished and will open to the public today (Thursday July 13).
While locals and visitors with and without a disability will be able to use the new equipment funded by Merimbula Rotary, not all parents from the Merimbula area are thrilled with the addition.
A group of parents voiced their concerns on social media, writing “There should have been community consultation” of which there was none by Bega Valley Shire Council or Merimbula Rotary, with the project announced on social media only a day or so before construction began.
Some local parents also took issue at the poor state the rest of the Spencer Park playground is in, with many sections actually held together with tape.
In a statement to East Coast Radio, Bega Valley Council said when a single piece of equipment is replaced in a playground, it’s considered an operational matter and as such, “council do not consult widely with the community.”
“Merimbula Rotary approached council with a proposal in 2021 to replace some of the aging equipment with disability accessible equipment fully funded by them and that proposal was accepted,” the council spokesperson said.
“Various aspects including safety, connectivity, possible future works and Merimbula Rotary’s interest in installing this piece of equipment were considered before deciding on this position.”
But many parents said they would have rather seen funds spent on upgrades to existing equipment and a permanent fence around the playground that sits between a road, Merimbula Lake estuary and a carpark.
“I think there needs to be a fence around the playground because of the busy road and car park, and the beach on the other side,” Colleen Holley said on Facebook.
“It’s great to see Spencer Park finally getting some new equipment” wrote Bega Valley local Tarryn Lucas, “Thanks so much to the Rotary Club however upkeep on old equipment also needs to be carried out to make it safe.
“There are parts continuously missing from little toddler park with slide and some of the giant spider web is currently held together with electrical tape.”
Another potential hazard Bega Valley parents took issue with was the dangers of a carousel for toddlers and small children in particular.
“The carousel is the worst thing you could put there,” said local Janifer Hutchinson. “It adds more stress to the area and the one at Ford oval is too fast and dangerous.
“I had a family member seriously injured from the Ford Oval one.”
Paul Lemm from Merimbula Rotary told East Coast Radio more than $100,000 was raised over three years through the Merimbula Seaside markets and other community events, in order to pay for the new equipment and footpath.
“We got $5,000 from a government grant which we put towards it but ultimately it’s a project that rotary have been working on for a substantial amount of time.
“We ran a golf day at the Tura Beach Country Club of which rotary people and their partners came to from across Australia, and we raised around $29,000 at that event alone for this piece of play equipment.”
When asked if Rotary conducted any community consultation ahead of the decision to install the carousal, Mr Lemm said they did not.
“We received feedback from people generally about the need for this equipment but no, we didn’t actively go out and consult with the community, we believed there was a need for that particular facility to be in place.”
In regards to the safety of the play equipment being called into question, Mr Lemm said it was safe and parents with small children should keep a eye on their kids around the carousel.
“We (at Merimbula Rotary) believe the all-accessible carousal is for the betterment of the park,” Mr Lemm said.
“The carousel will be safer than what was there previously, with the bark chip. There will be soft fall around it, and you can walk onto the carousal from the new footpath from the carpark,” he said.
“We just hope that when people see it in operation they agree that it’s an improvement.”
Mr Lemm said there were only good intentions behind the decision to install the carousal and he and Rotary would take any feedback on board.
When asked if Merimbula Rotary would consider fundraising for a permanent fence around the Spencer Park playground and/or an upgrade of the current equipment he had this response.
“We can certainly look at it, we’re always looking at new things to provide for the local area,” Mr Lemm said.
“If that’s something Rotary sees as of benefit and if council is happy to work with us, that’s something we’d be happy to work on.”
Bega Valley Shire Council said there is no intention to fence Spencer Park at this point.
“It is known the area would benefit from broader planning,” a council spokesperson said.
“That type of work would need to be considered within the context of park planning needs across the shire and would dependant on funding, which has not been allocated to the project at this stage.”
The final inspection of the playground was carried out on Wednesday (July 12) and the temporary fencing will come down today (Thursday July 13).
Images: Merimbula Rotary, Bega Valley Shire Council, East Coast Radio