"Blueprint" for park created by kids

WHEN local kids were asked back in November 2016 what they would like to have in the McCann Crescent park, there were five main things: shade, swings, somewhere to ride their bikes, no prickles, and a basketball court.

The ReSpark the Park event, on November 26, 2016.

The ReSpark the Park event, on November 26, 2016.

The list was drawn up after an informal "arts-based consultation" at the park that also involved pizza and live music.

Local arts workers set up easels and other materials and encouraged kids to paint and draw what they would like to see in the area, with parents also getting involved in the process.

The kids created a "blueprint" for a new park, says Regional Arts Victoria facilitator Kim Bennett, who initiated the project by applying for funding for the community event.

"The funding application we put in was to the Department of Justice for community safety," Ms Bennett says. "The council's youth strategy identified that area as a high crime area. When you drove around you could see a lot of evidence of children and young people living there but nowhere for them to go. It just looked so neglected." 

"The Department of Justice didn't know how an arts festival was going to improve people's safety, but they were curious and wanted to see what we were going to do with it."

One hundred and fifty people turned out to the ReSpark the Park afternoon, thanks in large part to the local coordinator of the project, Barapa Barapa Elder Uncle Lloyd Murray, who worked to encourage people to get involved.

"It was a really terrific family day, and a way of getting people out and having a say on their environment," Ms Bennett says.

After the event, the Gannawarra Shire took the kids' feedback and made it happen, Ms Bennett says, finding funds and contributing expertise and "heart" to the project.

The engineering team did the design, incorporating elements, like a crab apple tree, from the kids' drawings, then passed the project on to Parks staff, who also strove to realise the community's vision. 

Along the way there were problems but the council persevered with the plan, Ms Bennett says.

"I've got so much respect for the the council for persevering with this project, because it wasn't an easy one. There was a lot of bureaucracy along the way." 

The rebuilt park, which finally opened in September last year, is popular with kids now and works as a public place.

"One of the things people enjoy is the hill, which is made from sandbags from the 2011 floods," Ms Bennett says. "I think it's the highest point in Kerang. I see people up on that hill all the time. I just love that people are lying there enjoying the lovely grass."