Richard Hiatt took part in the fundraising effort in the late 1980s that resulted in the Newhaven mini ramp being built. Decades on, he’s disappointed the ramp is being torn down without firm plans for better facilities.
By Gav Ross
PHILLIP Island’s skating community is mourning the loss of Newhaven’s only ramp, and it could be years before any kind of replacement is built.
Over 60 passionate skaters of all ages and their families gathered last week to bid farewell to their beloved, rustic ramp on Boys Home Road.
Bass Coast Shire Council has deemed the ramshackle ramp as unsafe for public use and marked April 10 as the day it was officially ‘decommissioned’ – which is a more gentle way of saying ‘ripped down’.
The structure – which is used daily by at least 20 people – is expected to be dismantled this week.
Local skaters would be the first to admit that the rusty old mini ramp – which was built after a massive community fundraising effort in the late 1980s – has had its day.
But the fact it is being torn down without firm plans to build a replacement or a more substantial facility has left the community dismayed.
Members of the ‘4Shore Sk8 Park’ lobby group on Phillip Island – many of whom have skated on the mini ramp for most of their lives – are devastated.
David ‘Bucky’ Hamer from the group says the council has failed to maintain the rickety ramp in any way since the day it was opened.
“Local chippies and fathers of kids who use the ramp have been the ones replacing decking and fixing the hand rails over the years,” he said.
Another member of the community group, Bianca Fostin, believes there has been plenty of time for council to plan a better facility for the island.
“Even back when (this ramp) was opened, it wasn’t a fantastic facility.
“But 25 years later we still have the same thing, and now they’re tearing it down and leaving us with nothing.”
Bucky said the council informed the group of its decision to dismantle the ramp last month. “We acknowledged the ramp is in a dilapidated state and it needed to come down, but we wanted to see (the council) plant a stake in the ground somewhere on the island to say ‘yes we’re taking this away from you, but here’s a piece of land to work towards building a skate park on’. “That hasn’t happened.”
Cape Woolamai resident Richard Hiatt has fond memories of being part of the community push to open the mini ramp in the early 1990s.
Now at almost 50 years of age, he can’t believe the skating situation in Phillip Island remains so dire.
“The kids need something and the skate park at Cowes just doesn’t cut it,” he said.
“This (Newhaven) park hasn’t just been for kids – it was something for everyone.
“It has actually brought families together.
“Locals have parked their cars near the ramp and had barbecues together, creating a real sense of community.”
Richard firmly believes that a decent facility built somewhere on the island would be a major drawcard.
“This is meant to be a world class tourist destination and if Phillip Island had a world class skate park people would come from all over the world for competitions,” he continued.
“Everywhere you go up the coast, you find every town has a skate park.
“It doesn’t make sense.”
The council has advised it will relocate its portable skate ramp – which has been moved between towns for several years and has recently been sitting on Coronet Bay’s basketball court – to Newhaven semi-permanently as of this week.
While that sounds like a reasonable solution, seasoned skaters say the mobile ramp is next to useless and shouldn’t be considered a replacement.
“It’s very basic and only really suitable for kids under the age of eight,” Bucky said.
Word of last week’s ‘final skate’ on the doomed mini ramp spread like wildfire on social media and two council representatives – general manager of healthy communities, David Elder, and coordinator of recreation and culture, Mark Lindsay – were in attendance to reassure the community that council is listening.
“We’re here to say it’s great that there’s a passionate group of riders who want to see improved facilities and we’re on their side,” Mr Elder stated.
Mr Elder confirmed work is underway towards a long-term plan for skateboard activities in the area.
He said conversations are already underway with Convic Skatepark Design – a company behind some of the most celebrated seaside skate facilities in Australia – and a site assessment is scheduled to take place by the end of April.
“Obviously there’s a great deal of passion, which is a great starting point.”
There’s still a long road ahead, however, as funding would need to be secured for both the design and construction of a new park.
Mr Lindsay told those gathered at the ramp on Wednesday that he wished there had been an overlap and a new skate park was ready to go as soon as the mini ramp was dismantled.
“Unfortunately, that isn’t the case,” he told them.
“But we are looking at it and it is perfect timing because the 4Shore Sk8 group will inform what’s in the needs assessment study.
“We’ll make sure all activities, including skateboarding, scooter and BMX riding, are on the map and your voice is heard.
“I hope we can all be positive and work together.”