4 April 2024

Wollongong's lack of skate facilities a grind? Slide into council's plans for four new parks

| Zoe Cartwright
Start the conversation
Luke Russell pulls off a stale fish air at Fairy Meadow skate park.

Luke Russell pulls off a ‘stalefish’ at Fairy Meadow Skate Park. Photo: Ryan Grant.

The number of skate parks in Wollongong is set to almost double, with four new parks on the horizon.

Wollongong City Council has begun planning new parks for Thirroul, Wollongong and Port Kembla, as well as a mobile skate park that can be rotated between suburbs.

The council says each park will cater for different needs and purposes and has called on the community to have their say about what they should look like.

Local skater and photographer Ryan Grant is stoked the push for new facilities in the region is finally gaining momentum.

In his 40s, Ryan said he was part of a few different campaigns to improve skate infrastructure over the years, but most of them stalled.

“It’s something we’ve been lacking for a long time,” he said.

“Fairy Meadow Skate Park was a hub in the 90s; people would come from all different areas and the local community worked really hard to make that happen.

“Since then, there’s been a huge gap.

“A lot of good skateboarders come out of our region, but we need the facilities to support their development.”

READ ALSO What’s really riding on the Illawarra’s first all-female surf event?

Ryan said the sport, which will feature in the 2024 Paris Olympics, wasn’t just for future pros and Olympians.

It’s a great way to get outside, get some exercise and socialise.

He said there was a huge shift in the culture of skateboarding, and the public perception of the sport needed to shift too.

Part of that is having well thought out facilities.

“It’s an amazing outlet; I’ve been skating since I was 14 and I’m in my 40s,” he said.

“It brings a lot of different people together, from different backgrounds, jobs and lifestyles. I think it’s really healthy mentally to have that connection with people.

“It’s physical too; you feel better for getting out and doing it, and as a pastime it’s becoming more and more accepting of diversity – it’s a melting pot.

“When I grew up there were maybe one or two female skateboarders who would come and go. Skate parks were often hidden at the back of another sporting facility, and that would encourage more unsocial behaviour.

“The energy is so different now; the girls have a different attitude and it’s really positive – women’s skateboarding is huge, and deservedly so.

“Having parks helps with that; it shows it’s a sport like any other for kids to get into, it’s a great entry point and discourages people from doing DIY parks, which can cause a bit of a stir.”

READ ALSO From an elusive emu to tales of the past, photographer Brad Chilby brings landscapes, history to life

One of those DIY parks is the much-loved Port Kembla skate park that sprung up during COVID lockdowns, thanks to some enterprising local dads.

Currently the council is supporting the Port Kembla Chamber of Commerce and Investment (PKCCI) to formalise and finalise a new local level skate space for the community, thanks to NSW Government funding.

The council is currently seeking feedback from the broader Port Kembla community on what they think of the proposed location for a permanent space in the King George V Oval.

The council said it would incorporate community feedback into the Wollongong and Thirroul park designs, and work with skate park design firm Convic to review potential locations and to host workshops in Thirroul and Wollongong in April to prepare a vision for each skate park.

Ryan said there were a few items that were top of his design wish list.

“If you’re going to build a skate park and put money into it, it needs to last a long time, so it needs to facilitate for beginners through to the more advanced,” he said.

“It needs to be somewhere visible, central, and a good fit with the environment as well.

“Lighting is huge – older people often want to use the park after work, or when it’s not busy with kids, but if there are no lights there’s no chance.

“It needs to be accessible; toilet facilities and water are really important.

“It’s great the council is getting on board and I hope they listen to the community so it will be something everyone wants.”

To get involved or give your feedback head to Let’s Talk Skateparks! | Our Wollongong (nsw.gov.au)

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.