More Time for the Great Outdoors
Updated: Nov 16, 2021
Lockdown 6.0 saw a major increase in visitors to Boroondara’s open spaces, parks, and trails. Restrictions forced many of us to reconnect with our nearby outdoor surroundings, and engage in outdoor recreational activities in a new way.
In anticipation of increased foot traffic during lockdown, Boroondara council encouraged residents to use the local trails within 5km for exercise instead of flocking to parks and ovals en masse. The two trails accessible to Glenferrie Hawthorn users are the Anniversary Trail and a section of the Main Yarra Trail. Council explained that their request was to ensure the upkeep and presentation of local parks and ovals, which were heavily used during previous lockdowns.
While many enjoyed opportunities for an invigorating walk on the trails and streets, others were challenged to find alternatives with sporting club activities and some park facilities closed temporarily.
To practice tennis, play basketball, utilise public fitness equipment or skate facilities, the only parks to offer some of these amenities within Glenferrie Hawthorn’s 5km radius are; Anderson Park, Dean Avenue Reserve, Grace Park, H.A. Smith Reserve, and Junction Skate & BMX Park. In accordance with Victorian Government Health orders during lockdown 6.0, many of these park facilities (as well as playgrounds) were closed off for some period to discourage people from gathering. Due to these restrictions and limitations, Glenferrie Hawthorn residents took it upon themselves (DIY-style) to creatively use spaces for games and sport.
Children in the area could be spotted using empty carparks as bicycle circuits. Dirt jumps were built, bike tracks were carved out, and creative skateboard ramps constructed. Expansive brick walls in carparks became hit-up walls, and in one instance a tennis net was rigged up. Carless carparks were used as a place to meet and where there was a good vantage point, a scenic lookout.
Of those who had memberships to a Hawthorn sporting club, many kept connected through Zoom catch-ups. Some even participated in ‘virtual’ competitions. Hawthorn Cycling Club is one of the top teams from Australia’s locked down cities to compete across various virtual race categories. The Swinburne Razorbacks (Swinburne Amateur Football Club), noticed the influx of people going for a kick at their home base in St James Park, and look forward to more women joining their club. In fact, many clubs anticipate an increase in membership enquiries after lockdown. Chris Webster, Swinburne Razorbacks secretary, noted that “since missing out An independent paper for the locals & traders of Glenferrie Hawthorn on sport in 2020, people are more keen than ever to participate”. Amy Thompson, Hawthorn Cycling Club secretary, noted the huge increase in people riding their bikes, commenting that it is “great to see more people experience the joy of being on a bike”. Amy also described the trend of “‘burbing” that became popular during lockdown; an attempt to ride all the streets of a suburb in a single trip. It’s a “great challenge” and made the most of the 5km radius limit from home.
Boroondara’s open spaces make up 10.3% of the municipality, according to a 2017 Victorian Planning Authority report, just above the average of 9.3% across Victorian municipalities. However, as the long and tiring lockdown ends, does our recent experience suggest the need for an increase in local sporting facilities in these open spaces, such as; BMX tracks, mountain bike jumps, more hit-up walls, or a fixed public tennis net?
When contacted regarding the possibility of further utilising open space, council emphasised the value of Boroondara’s open spaces and parks, and the high standard of presentation and maintenance required by the Boroondara Open Space Strategy (BOSS). They admitted that the installation of new facilities and assets requires rigorous planning and “robust” community consultation, but the Glenferrie Placemaking Project is looking into opportunities to repurpose some shared spaces. Council said that they had “received significant community feedback, both in support of and strongly against DIY facilities” that popped up over lockdown.
Post-lockdown, Hawthorn clubs and facilities will welcome back existing members as well as many new and diverse members and users. Our relationship with the outdoors evolved through lockdowns and it is clear that the public treasured being outside and utilising Boroondara’s open spaces and parks as a place to go, get out of the house, be active, and reflect.