skating: the issue

The proposed skate park or ‘youth plaza’ on the Esplanade has been a complex and contentious local issue that I have spent much time considering and discussing over the last few months, with numerous people, in order to come to my own position. I have attempted to explain that position here.

I have found this issue challenging as I support a youth facility on the Esplanade, in a safe and open space that is well used and therefore safe, inclusive and welcoming. However, I also love the open space and quiet parkland that the Esplanade provides so close to the city centre. However, this issue should be considered in isolation, but in the broader context of the whole city and our contemporary issues we face.

City Green Spaces
There are actually a number of parks and quiet recreational areas that serve Fremantle’s inner city residents and visitors that should not be forgotten. For example Bathers Beach – which has more grass than it did two year ago, and I hope to expand the grass further in the coming months, the Round House and Captains Lane, Queen’s Square (at the intersection of Parry and High Streets), Princess May Park, Fremantle Park, Monument Hill and Cantonment Hill – which is receiving a major upgrade that will see it transformed into Fremantle’s very own Kings Park with the works about to get underway.

Recreational uses
The Esplanade was created for recreational enjoyment. The active recreational uses on the Esplanade such as the expanded children’s playground, the Carriage Cafe and its lovely deck under the trees, the skywheel and Dismantle are all very successful and popular recreational uses that add to the amenity and enjoyment of the Esplanade Reserve. It is envisaged that the skate plaza will have an equally positive effect on the reserves public realm.

Water use
We must also factor in the reality of a drying climate. The Water Corporations has reduced the water allocation to local governments and Fremantle Council must reduce our water use in our parks and landscaping by 30%. To do this, we will need to reduce the overall amount of grass, especially if we want to ensure that the grass we do have is well maintained and useful.

The Mound
I love the mound. But through this process I have had to ask myself – why? What is it about the mound that I love? The answer is that I love being able to either sit at a vantage point to look out over the park and watch the goings on, or tuck myself away within it for a little privacy and solitude. It is these practical features of the mound that we have asked the designers to retain in the final skate park design. Because, despite local urban myths and speculation, the mound actually serves no practical purpose – just the amenity and enjoyment that it provides, which will be retained or replicated in the design.

Sadly, some of the criticism of the proposed skate park has been based on the assumption that it will attract antisocial behavior, graffiti or crime.  The City of Fremantle has a strategic goal to be inclusive of youth and provide facilities and services that make young people feel like a welcome part of our community and encourages their participation, physical activity and positive interaction with the everyone else. Evidence (and logic) suggests that the best way to elicit positive behavior among young people is to provide constructive outlets for their energy, positive social opportunities and role models. The youth plaza meets these aims. By building the youth plaza in a very public, well used space means that the likelihood of antisocial behavior is reduced due to the level of passive surveillance from watchful eyes. We don’t want to make the kids feel like they’ve been shoved in the naughty corner!

Heritage and culture is a living, evolving thingit is not stagnant or constant. The park will still be a park, a beautiful place for recreation and outdoor activities. We are adding some facilities to a small section of the park (less than 10%) that will attract and engage our kids and young adults in a positive recreational activity. We are not cutting down any of the trees but in fact propose to  plant more for shade.

Concerns heard
The issues and concerns raised by some members of the community have been heard and acted upon, with an amendment developed by the Mayor and Councilors Andrew Sullivan, Dave Coggin and I that includes the following:

a)    increase the extent of separation between the plaza and the existing mature Norfolk Island Pines – which will reduce the youth plaza’s encroachment into the passive recreation area of the park

b)   examine options for creating new permeable green spaces (not necessarily grass but vegetated) within the Fremantle CBD to offset loss of green space on Esplanade – to ensure there is no loss of net green space in the CBD

c)    options for the creation of undulating sculpted grass play features in the vicinity of the Esplanade Reserve – to replicate (and improve) the functionality and enjoyment provided by the mound


While I recognize that this significant change to a much used and loved space does cause some concerns for some people, I envisage that ultimately the youth plaza will be a vibrant and enjoyable recreational area for people of all ages. I hope that in time, more people will agree that the youth plaza is a positive addition to the Esplanade Reserve.

I am also excited by the early designs for the youth plaza which include additional trees, BBQs, basketball and various interesting structures for seating. You can see the community feedback on the skate park built in St Kilda by Convic, who are designing Freo’s skate park here.

13 thoughts on “skating: the issue

  1. I appreciate your thoughful approach to this Ray, but I really disagree with your article on several key points and don’t feel at all assured about the youth plaza proposal if this is the degree of action that the Council is proposing to addressing concerns such as mine about loss of parkland:

    1) You say there are other parks in the inner city so loss of Esplanade parkland doesn’t matter so much.
    But as an inner city resident living slightly to the south of the CBD, several of the parks you mentioned are too far for me to access with my child except on rare occasions/special excursions by car (I travel by foot or by bike – but only the later if there is a bike-friendly route because cycling is very different when there is a bub on the back). The Esplanade also has a major playground, which many of those parks do not – that’s why so many families of youn children come to the Esplanade, rather than Monument Hill, Fremantle Park etc.

    2) Small children run. So many of their parents seek out a small area that is enclosed or a big area of park that is unenclosed (so you have time to catch them before they reach the road/sea or go out of sight). So the other smaller bits of grass/park you are talking about, while very welcome, don’t provide the same function – this (and their relative lack of play facilities) is why you don’t see flocks of families at Queens Square, the Roundhouse, and Princess May Park, and why you DO see them at the Esplanade.

    3) Many of the residents I know don’t like the number of temporary, semi-permanant and permanant structures on the Esplanade (we never really know if they are permanent or not and if I had realised how long some were going to be here I would have complained long ago) so I strongly disagree with your view that current recreational facilities on the park are popular. In fact, god knows how the tacky commercial enterprises are making any money because I can tell you for certain that there ‘s a hell of a lot more people enjoying the park itself than those facilities ANY day of the week.

    4) Park users are also frequently frustrated by being unable to access large amounts of the park due to events, especially on weekends. Sometimes the playground is left out of the event barriers but even in the middle of the day, you have the event attendees smoking, drinking and being obnoxious right next to the playground – it’s not compatible with small children. When the park is opened for access again after these events, it’s generally worn through to earth in many areas. This recreational use of the park is also not popular with the many park-users I know.

    5) Regards the drying climate, I don’t believe you will find Water Corp’s Water Efficiency Branch, Josh Byrne or any other sustainability guru recommending concreting vegetation as a water efficiency/climate change solution. Concrete (apart from being a high emissions intensity building material) attracts and holds heat. Concrete is not under circumstances the material you put into a park or a garden if you are trying to be more waterwise or make that park or garden feel more pleasant or cool.

    6). You say concerns such as mine have been heard. But the one slm hope I had of the youth skate plaza being acceptable from a family point of view involved an expansion of the Esplanade to the south and re-alignment of the Fishing Boat Harbour entry, creating addtional parkland and offsetting the loss of parkalnd to the skate park. However all you are saying is you will “examine options” for other green spaces “within the CBD”. As my points outline above, this weak-sounding promise, even if fulfilled, doesn’t address why further loss of Esplanade parkland is unacceptable from my viewpoint.

    On a personal note, and I say the following not to sound threatening but to say what I honestly think is the case – by gritting its teeth in the face of concerns raised and pushing through with this skate park proposal under the arrangements you have outlined above – this Council, whom I have generally supported, might be signing its death warrant. The Esplanade is an icon, it’s being tattered and torn by various commercial encroachments at the moment, but people love it and anyone who runs an effective negative campaign against this Council on this issue alone could well, in my view, bring this Council down. I wish this Council would therefore focus on its many other worthwhile projects instead – and put the youth park plaza proposal on hold until such a time until you can come up with a proposal to build it without expecting a whole lot of people to give up a big chunk of something they love.

  2. Well thought out Rachel. I don’t believe Council is signing a death warrant at all (which I presumes means that they will lose the next election? to who? ). Its great to hear the background to your decision making and I’m glad its being considered the context of the whole CBD and that there could be consideration for some of the over supply of dead, unused, car parks to be converted into public space.. I’m excited by the possibility of a youth precinct in a fantastic location and I belive in 2 -3 years we will be looking at the furphy and wondering why it was ever contentious.

  3. But Eloise when Rosanna is a teenager you will be looking for places for her to hang out with her freinds that are built for teenagers but in the public area where there are families, shade and a certain level of safety for young teenagers.

    If we don’t have the skate park and similar facilities in public places, teenagers will go off to all sorts of places, out of the community eye that is not always that safe.

    They need their own activities and places that are part of the community, but just a little separate.

    I would prefer my teenagers skating at the Esplanade than some of the other current options.

    I think we need to make room for everyone.

  4. Sorry to double-post but also a request. Please state here what is the Council’s mandate to sacrifice 9.5% of the park for the youth plaza.
    (All I know is that I tried to do the survey about the proposal on the Council’s community engagement site and I couldn’t do it because you have to state preference for either option 1 or option 2 for the proposed plaza, both of which take up 9.5% of the park. Since this survey is clearly not going to provide you with a mandate, what information is it exactly that the Council is relying to be sure that the majority of the Fremantle community want this proposal????)

  5. Well said, Rach. I think you encapsulate the sorts of concerns that most of us hold as long term(Always!) users of the park..
    I think, the design ideas and plans for this facility are great and inclusive and I’m confident that this youth plaza will become an attraction of international renown and an asset to the Fremantle community. It will break ground in community inclusion and Social Capital Investment.

    The better we integrate our youth of today into the community,
    the better our community of tomorrow will be.

    I’m sure that this project will further enhance the icon that Fremantle Esplanade Park is to all of us who Love Her so well.
    Congrats to you and the Council and all the drivers in the community who are putting great ideas into action.

  6. Hi,

    Thanks for the update. I disagree with ‘Eloise Dortch’..

    I am mesmerized that people think there is a shortage of ‘green space’ in the city – or that the esplanade is not big enough for a small child to run around on!

    However, please please please make the skate-park all ages, so me, with my fifty year-old bones can ride my bike along the bike path nearby, cross the railway tracks, and ride along a gently, playful and bumpy part of the skate park and get a little massage without interfering with the hard-core skaters!

    I also hope two year olds and their grandparents can have a whiz on a few gently sloping paths with a tiny scooter.

    And lastly! I would gladly see see 50 small parks dotted around the city than one huge green field, which is what the esplanade is.

    Please post on your blog more often.


  8. Eloise, I appreciate your thoughtful and measured response to Cr. Pemberton’s post – it is the sort of contribution that is graceful and of proper value IMHO. However, can’t agree with many of your points, and as a fellow inner city resident (I think – certainly in the ward, on Hampton cnr Alma), I wish to dispute particularly your suggestion that the skate park decision might be the nail in council’s coffin. As testified to by the turnout and outcome on Wednesday night, conversations with many interested locals around town, and media engagement from Facebook to the Herald letters page, my impression has been a fairly undilute support for the council agenda. I am 24, so fit firmly in the age bracket you might dismiss as vested yet unconcerned, but I can tell you that my own experience is that everyone around town is simply happy that shit is finally getting done. Many my own age or slightly younger, but also many in their 40s, 50s and 60s I associate with at various local haunts (all very much in the inner city) firmly applaud council’s actions and gameplan, and sigh or smirk at the behaviour of many of its opponents (present company definitely excepted.)

    I should also add that, not being in a position to care particularly, I hadn’t really considered the issue from the perspective of parents of young kids, so thanks for that input too.

    Cheers. Let’s wait and see, I really reckon it’ll all come up far rosier than you fear.

  9. A reply Eloise regarding the claims relevant to the Skate Park (Youth Plaza).

    The first claim is untenable. From a logical perspective one cannot claim ‘the fact that mentioning other parks in the city centre is irrelevant’, and then use those same parks to justify your position. That is called circular reasoning, and it is a logical fallacy. Numbers of locally available parks are important, and one would be foolish to expect them to all be the same. One cannot conclude the other parks are irrelevant on the grounds that they are different parks, as they are all still ‘parks’.

    In the second claim you concede your argument is built out of and entrenched position. Your position is very narrowly built using a deductive argument that starts with the claim ‘small children run’. Although I concede this initial claim is a truth, one cannot use this truth as reason to reject the skate park. For instance, for every parent of a ‘small child that runs’ there is a parent from the opposing viewpoint that have ‘a child that skateboards’- a parent who holds that there is nowhere safe to let them go and skate. In a reversal of roles, the council could try placing green spaces on the fringes of town specifically for the purpose of letting small children run, implemented in the same spirit as society have treated skateboarding in the past.

    In regards to the third claim, just because your social group are not in favour of Dismantle and the Carriage Cafe, does not then translate into the conclusion that en masse ‘they are not popular’. Have a look at the people using them and ask them if it is popular or not.

    In conclusion Eloise, your argument fails to address why further sharing of Esplanade parkland is unacceptable. It fails on the grounds that you have not critically considered your own opinions, which you attempt to espouse as fact. You have failed to provide a logical synthesis, with your emotive claims only demonstrating your personal inability to share the park, above anything else.

    On a personal note I will concede that your claims do come from a good place, your heart – and are claims stemming around the protection of your child. However in rejoinder to this I would maintain that small children are only small for a few years, whereas skateboarding can begin at the age of 5 and last up until the age of 95. Thus ceteris paribus, there are more parents of skateboarders who want a safe inner city place for their children to skate.

    I will end on the following, and it is not my wish to sound threatening but only to say what I honestly think is the case: I fear that it may be only a matter of time before one day your own small child awakens transformed – almost overnight – into one of the very skateboarders you are so desperately trying to protect them from.

  10. A skate plaza is a great idea, but I totally agree with Eloise’s comments.

    This is not just for recreation, it is being designed for local, national and international competitions. Skateboarding is becoming a highly commercialized sport. In this sense it is actually a sporting venue too. It will be hugely popular (huge being the operative word).

    Even though it will only be on about 10% of the park (spread over a larger expanse?), people will be coming and going from all directions.

    The grass is already struggling with the traffic and from too many special events. So will they have to put in paths leading to the skate facility? If paths are put in, it would be unrealistic to think that the kids wouldn’t skate on them too? This plaza will change the whole atmosphere of the park. Not everyone escapes to the park for high energy entertainment. Even teenagers go there to escape. Parents will have to watch that their toddlers are not bowled over by speeding skaters.

    Fast forward 20 years, Fremantle will be full of high rise apartments. These parks are precious. Where will people go for a quiet green escape?

    I disagree that Freo has lots of parks. There are 4 skating locations in Freo now. Is it true that buildings are being planned for Pioneer Park?

    Why should Passive Recreators be told to go to outer parks, but it is a priority to have skateboarders right in the middle? Passive Recreators, joggers, walkers, kids playing etc. are by far the majority of the population. I believe on Councillor said at the meeting that he thought Passive Recreation was over rated?

    I love the idea of a skate plaza in central Fremantle and I commend the Council for planning such an amazing facility, but don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. Please put it somewhere else or towards the southern end or on Beach Street?

  11. My vision for the park is for parents like me to be able to relax in a shaded spot watching one child play on the playground while another skateboards or climbs parkour elements in the youth plaza. And maybe afterwards we can meet friends and watch a movie or band on an adjacent stage.

  12. My vision for the park is for parents like me to be able to relax in a shaded spot watching one child play on the playground while another skateboards or climbs parkour elements in the youth plaza. And maybe afterwards we can meet friends and watch a movie or band on an adjacent stage.

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