Funded by a grant from Disability Services Queensland, the project is part of the Australian Government’s Best Start – Supporting Families in the Early Years initiative, and works to break down the access barriers that children with restricted mobility, in particular, come up against in outdoor recreational play. The keypoint of the project is that the playgrounds are openly accessible for all children to play together – whether they have a disability or not.
The RPS Landscape Design team in Townsville and the local community worked closely with Townsville City Council Parks Service to deliver the hugely popular playspace at Riverway, Townsville. More than 250 local residents took part in designing and planning the 400m2 playground with multi-level turtle sand pit, obstacle course, sensory garden, sound play area with giant musical posts and xylophone, and a ramp-accessible tree house with binoculars and game boards.
Situated in the vibrant Riverway precinct, beside the Ross River, the park is smoothly integrated with the existing riverway lagoons, and is created to encourage nature-based and imaginative play by inspiring the senses, using fun learning games and providing attractive challenges. In this way the park helps to aid co-ordination and learning development through play for a wide range of children’s abilities.
Significant insight for the playground’s layout was inputted by local children and families, key stakeholders including The Umbrella Network (a group centred around families with children with disabilities: ‘families supporting families’), disability and focus groups, and health specialists across a range of difficulties including physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists.
The playground was officially opened by Disability Services Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk, with a ‘Turtles Picnic’ themed family fun day. RPS Principal Landscape Architect, Glen Power says the opening event was a celebration not only of the playspace but of the effort and input of hundreds of stakeholders of all ages with the common goal of providing a safe, fun and inclusive play environment.
This type of play space had never been attempted in Townsville. The local communities understanding of what a playground was included a fairly standard off-the-shelf equipment based play area where you have a slide, some platforms and a swing. This park was breaking new ground, using nature based play and imaginative play providing a space that is accessible to all, something new for the city.
Developing a play space to inspire the senses, encourage learning, provide challenges and still make it all fun required innovation. The development of the park around the theme of the Ross River enabled us as designers, both Council and RPS, to think outside the standard playground format. This involved developing wheel chair accessible play solutions such as the tree house that allows children to have a different perspective on the world, and a multi-leveled turtle sand pit that allowed children of all ages and abilities to get their hands dirty and build sand castles.
The Townsville All Abilities Playground is the latest completed project in RPS’ impressive portfolio of outdoor recreational amenities which includes the multi-award winning Northshore Riverside Park which transformed a former car-shipping yard into an all-age leisure area featuring space for ball games, landscaped walks, playgrounds, and barbecue/picnic facilities. Northshore Riverside Park won awards from Parks and Leisure Australia and the Queensland representation of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects in 2009.
It is now listed for key trade magazine World Architecture News’ Urban Design Awards, the winner of which will be announced on 19 October 2010.