22 May 2023

Transformed: Cringila Hills Recreation Park bags top prize in state awards

| Dione David
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Child rides bike at Cringila Hills Recreation Park

Cringila Hills Recreation Park is the hottest new thing on the state’s park circuit according to the sector’s peak body. Photos: Wollongong City Council.

A former Illawarra dumping ground turned recreational haven has taken the top gong at the state’s most prestigious awards ceremony for the parks and leisure sector.

Cringila Hills Recreation Park was named Park of the Year at the Parks and Leisure Australia NSW Conference Awards dinner on 18 May.

The award constituted high praise from the sector’s peak body for a highly deserving transformation of a once derelict space.

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery AM said the former farmland, which was later left redundant for more than 25 years, had been overhauled to meet the needs of surrounding communities on multiple levels.

“It had more or less become a location for dump cars and illegal dumping, which was a waste,” he said. “It’s a sizeable area stretching all the way from Berkeley and being hilly, lent itself to beginners and medium proficiency mountain biking.”

Cr Bradbery said the pieces all came together when a group of students from Cringila Public School expressed concerns over the poor state of the playground on Auburn Parade.

“It had been badly vandalised and the playground location meant there was poor surveillance,” he said. “We were also working with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to help create an alternative for mountain bikers who were carving out trails that inadvertently encroached on heritage land and caused grief to Aboriginal communities.

“The success of Cringila Hills Recreation Park has turned out to be affirming to the local community, who had concerns about the lack of recreational facilities in the area.

“At the same time, we’re reestablishing native vegetation and making much better use of that space.”

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The Parks and Leisure Australia NSW Conference Awards celebrates and promotes vibrant, successful, well-designed and managed new or significantly revitalised parks and open spaces. The prestigious Park of the Year title recognises design and management best practices.

Wollongong City Council general manager Greg Doyle said recognition for a community space at this level from experts outside the city was a matter of great pride.

“It wasn’t that long ago this site was under-utilised and overgrown and did not live up to its full potential. Now, it’s an exciting place to be with mountain bike trails, walking trails, a fabulous playground and bike skills park and pump track,’” he said.

“It’s one of our premier parks and is something for our whole community to be proud of.”

Mr Doyle said the project was a legacy of Wollongong hosting the 2022 UCI Road World Championships and our recognition as a UCI Bike City.

“By hosting this event and investing in a wide range of biking infrastructure, we’ve been able to leverage the UCI Bike City label to bring in additional grant funding from the state and federal Governments that have allowed us to fast-track long-term projects like this one and open it sooner for the benefit of all,” he said.

Cr Bradbery said the elevation of the recreation park in one of Wollongong’s most disadvantaged suburbs benefitted the “passionate and culturally diverse” locals and visitors alike.

“This park is a whole-of-community space. It’s for everyone, whether they’re the extraordinarily proud locals, people from our broader community, or visitors,” he said.

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“This is a great use of an area that had been under-utilised. It has been activated in a way that benefits the whole community, especially those in the southern suburbs and is opening Cringila up in a way it hasn’t experienced before.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for those who are yet to discover the magic of this suburb to spend some time in this beautiful area.”

Cringila Hills Recreation Park will vie for national honours in Adelaide in October this year.

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