Unhappy parents call for Hutchings Park upgrade


Karlie Brady


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Port Gardens resident, Sam Fielden, is amongst a group of parents calling for better play equipment at Hutchins Park for their kids. Image: Karlie Brady.

A group of Port Douglas residents are calling for upgrades to be delivered for a prominent Port Douglas park after other playgrounds in the Shire were earmarked for renewal.

The call comes after last month's announcement from the Douglas Shire Council that 10 playgrounds in the region were set to get an upgrade, however, Hutchings Park in Port Gardens was not on the list, angering some residents. 

- A playground revival for the Douglas Shire

Hutchings Park sits in the middle of one of Port Douglas’ largest residential areas, with more kids in its direct vicinity than any other park in the area, however, residents say it is an unmaintained, dirty, cracking facility.

Port Gardens resident and parent, Sam Fielden, said it is in dire need of an upgrade and she is shocked it has been overlooked.

“It is a well-used park, not just in the area but right across the Shire and look at the state of it,” she said.

Ms Fielden said parts of the playground were broken and vandalised, and apart from a new shade sail, maintenance, and rubber soft fall matting which the Council did replace in recent years, not a lot had been upgraded in the 11 years she has lived there.

She added that there was nothing there for the older kids to do often leading them to loiter on the playground, deterring younger kids from using the park.

Referring to the large grass space surrounding the playground Ms Fielden said; “look at all this space that is not being used, why can’t they put in a court of some sort for the older kids?

“This is an area that we need for our children and it needs to be made more accessible and have more stuff to do.

“What I am saying is felt by many, right across the community, I work in the tuck shop at school and I have spoken to many angry mums,” she said.

Former Port Gardens resident, Narelle Spencer, said she has spoken to Council a number of times regarding this matter and hasn’t gotten very far.

“Councillor Abigail Noli met me at the park over 18 months ago and I showed her the issues and she did take it back to council,” she said.

Ms Spencer added while some small issues were fixed at that time many were left unaddressed.

“There are bits missing and torn, they should be looking at replacing the chains and rubber bits because they don’t look safe and are very dirty,” she said.

Councillor candidate for the upcoming election, Natalie Johnson, said while she is not privy to why certain parks were picked for the Council upgrade she can only make the observation that parks slated for works have sand fall areas being replaced with soft fall or have no playground equipment at all.

“I walked through Hutchings Park today and agree with the residents it needs upgrading. In particular, the grey play unit and swing set which is set on sand would be the first item I would advocate for full replacement of the entire set as it is damaged plus the installation of soft fall.  

“I did read through the latest CEO Report and Capital Works projects Council have on the go and there is still money from the $1.5 million park renewal program to be rolled out, so I would certainly be pushing for some of those funds to be put into Hutchings Park,” Ms Johnson said.

In a statement to Newsport Council said; “an independent audit of the Shire’s playgrounds identified the playgrounds that are in greatest need of renewal from a condition assessment of the equipment specifically for safety and regulatory compliance.

“The 10 sites were prioritized based on recommendations from these external consultants and other playgrounds will be considered in the 2020/21 capital works program.

“Council is also currently delivering a $1.25 million park renewal program, which includes Hutchings Park at Port Gardens.

“This program includes installation of new exercise equipment, seating/tables, BBQ’s, shelters, drink fountains, fencing, signage, outdoor court resurfacing, as well as other initiatives across a number of the Shire’s parks.

“Hutchings Park will receive a new BBQ shelter, exercise equipment and drinking fountains,” the statement said.

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