By Gav Ross
BASS Coast Shire’s fastest-growing township might be celebrating the installation of a new footpath, but according to local families the community it’s still missing one vital piece of public infrastructure – a playground.
Dalyston is practically the only town in the entire municipality without one.
In comparison, Wonthaggi has no less than eight playgrounds, and Inverloch boasts four.
Communities with a much smaller population than Dalyston, such as Bass, Pioneer Bay and Kilcunda, have had their own playgrounds for years.
Not only that, many of those playgrounds have been renewed or replaced in recent years.
Even tiny hamlets like Kernot and Glen Forbes have playgrounds.
When school teacher Lauren Kenny moved to Dalyston five years ago, she was perplexed as to why the town didn’t have a play area for children.
She asked around, but there seemed to be no logical explanation; parents were used to simply jumping into the car and driving to a nearby township for a swing, slide or climb.
“My only option was to drive somewhere else,” Ms Kenny said.
“But there are young families in this area who either have just one car between two parents or no car at all, and they’re stuck.
“I constantly see young mums pushing prams up and down the side of the road to nowhere because there’s nothing to do.
“It’s really sad.”
Ms Kenny started a petition three weeks ago, calling on the council to investigate playground options.
Over 100 signatures have been collected thus far.
Ms Kenny has already asked the council whether there are any plans for a Dalyston playground in the near future, only to be met with a frustrating response.
“They told me there was no land available,” she said.
“It’s quite surprising because in terms of this council and all of its health initiatives, it’s negligent of them not to have a playground for kids here.
“It’s not realistic for them to say ‘exercise more’ if there’s nowhere for kids to play.
“Now that the new footpath has been constructed on the main road, I think it’s an ideal time for us to get a playground.”
Another local mother, Ellen Henry, said Dalyston residents have long been dissatisfied with remaining playground-less.
“I grew up here and there were people talking about it over 20 years ago,” she said.
“In terms of facilities, Dalyston is almost the same as it was all those years ago.
“It’s like we’re turning out to be the poor relation of surrounding towns.”
No space to play
So if a playground for Dalyston was ever announced, where would it go?
The council doesn’t even know, and that appears to be the main problem.
“We are aware Dalyston is a township in need of a playground but at the moment there is not an appropriate site,” a council spokesperson explained.
A new playground received a mention in the Dalyston Recreation Reserve Master Plan released over two years ago, with an estimated cost of $47,400.
“The playground in the master plan is listed as a low priority as the location relies on the change rooms being relocated in order to provide an appropriate location/site for the playground,” the council spokesperson clarified.
“At the moment there is no other suitable location at the reserve.”
But not all hope is lost – there is a new ‘Playground Plan’ due to be developed and released by the council before mid-2016.
“The Wonthaggi Dalyston Structure Plan identified the need for open space north of the highway in the undeveloped land,” the spokesperson added.
“This area would then be potentially developed into a playground.
“I would anticipate the future Playground Plan would identify this gap.”
The petition is available to sign in the Dalyston General Store.
Where are our playgrounds?
THERE are 39 public playgrounds around Bass Coast.
Here are a few of them, along with recent population statistics, in comparison to Dalyston
• Wonthaggi/Wonthaggi North – 8 (pop. 6876)
• Cowes – 5 (pop. 4051)
• Inverloch – 4 (pop. 3961)
• Cape Paterson – 3 (pop. 712)
• San Remo – 2 (pop. 1085)
• Rhyll – 2 (pop. 672)
• Newhaven – 1 (pop. 385)
• Smiths Beach – 1 (pop. 287)
• Dalyston – 0 (pop. 604)
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics Census (2011) and Bass Coast Shire Playgrounds Map (2009).