By Jessica Robertson

Did you hear the news? The Northend Park Project was one of four lucky community groups selected as a winner of the Max 98.3 Pepsi Refresh Contest. On Friday October 7th, the project was awarded $3000 to use towards the purchase and planting of a fence of trees along the back perimeter of the park. This fence will contribute to making the Desbarres Street Park a more welcoming community space by obscuring the industrial rail yard that borders the park.

This track and its rusty railway cars are the very first thing children see when arriving at the park and contribute considerably to the neglected and unsafe feel of the space. These trees will add to the vitality of the space, will grow and change with the park and community over the years and will be less likely to attract vandals than a large wooden fence.

Playgrounds and parks are integral to the health of neighbourhoods and to the health of whole communities. It is more important than ever that our children are encouraged to spend time outside engaged in physical activity and it is our role as parents, adults and community members to ensure that they have safe and inviting spaces in which to do so.

It is equally important that we create public spaces that can benefit and be used by all members of the community and municipality for a host of purposes – sports games, community events, family picnics, evening walks, meeting fellow neighbours and residents, and so on. We think the Desbarres Street Park is one such space.

Unlike other neighbourhoods, the Northend of Sydney no longer has a functioning elementary school, high school (both of which generally have large well-maintained outdoor spaces), a community centre or a recreation centre. These public places and the relationships and gatherings they enable are very often catalysts for further community planning, engagement, connection and action. The Northend is home to a greater number of older and senior residents and a vibrant space close to where they live would undoubtedly foster new social and recreation opportunities.

In late September, The Northend Park Project held its first meeting to gauge community interest and to begin to discuss different elements of the park renovation. Ultimately, those in attendance hope to see a vibrant new community space with updated playground equipment, new benches in the playground area and around the track, better lighting, a street hockey court (made from the old unused tennis court), garbage bins, an entry arch and considerable brush clearing and maintenance by the municipality.

The Northend Park Project group plans to meet again in late October to discuss its next steps including incorporation as a Society with The Registry of Joint Stocks, the design of some innovative park benches using repurposed materials, and fundraising strategies. If you would like to attend this evening meeting (date to be determined and children welcome) please call Erika at 270-6013 or find us on Facebook (search for The Northend Park Project and we’ll pop up) where details of the meeting will be posted.