Neighbourhood parks and playgrounds across the Lower Hunter are receiving renewed attention and investment from local councils.
Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Maitland councils have each commenced work to improve facilities at a number of locations.
Lake Macquarie City Council will this week start building an accessible playground at Bernie Goodwin Memorial Park in Morisset. The $1.25 million project had been due to commence in late 2018 but was delayed after asbestos was found at the site. It has since undergone extensive remediation.
"This involved capping the entire site with more than 3500 cubic metres of soil to bury the contaminants," the council's asset manager Brendan Callander said.
The playground will have two separate areas to cater to younger and older age groups and is part of a broader park redevelopment that includes a new skate park, barbecue facilities and outdoor exercise equipment.
"COVID-19 has further highlighted the demand within our community for outdoor recreational spaces," mayor Kay Fraser said.
The project attracted funding from the NSW government's $400 million Stronger Country Communities Fund.
"When complete, young people in and around Lake Macquarie will have a vibrant, safe, inclusive play space that caters to their unique needs," Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Catherine Cusack said.
City of Newcastle is investing $8.2 million in parks, playgrounds and sporting fields this financial year as part of its COVID-19 response.
"During the past five years we have delivered approximately $6.5 million in new and upgraded playgrounds ... including the new Brickworks Park and Carrington Street Reserve playgrounds in Wallsend," Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
"In 2020/21 we will continue this investment [at] Novocastrian Park in New Lambton, Gross Street Reserve at Tighes Hill, King Edward Park in Cooks Hill and Dangar Park in Mayfield. We're also planning a new active hub in Wallsend, while also completing the significant upgrade to Stevenson Park in Mayfield West."
Meanwhile, Maitland council is set to investigate building a "playground of significance" as part of the development of a new community infrastructure plan. The plan will be put out for public exhibition in October.
Cr Philip Penfold moved a notice of motion at a recent council meeting calling for the council to investigate play facilities that cater to all abilities and ages. He said similar playgrounds built for residents at Singleton, Stockton and Speers Point in recent years had turned out to be tourism drawcards.
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