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Share vision for playground

Benalla community has the opportunity to put forward ideas for a revamp of the gardens playground.

December 14, 2012 4:57am

The Benalla gardens playground is going to undergo a big change in the near future.

The first step toward rejuvenating Benalla’s iconic children’s Rocket Park will take place on Sunday, December 16, at a free sausage sizzle event at the Benalla Botanical Gardens.

The event is scheduled to be held at the Rocket Park playground between 11am and 1pm and is open to the entire community.

It will be hosted jointly by Benalla Rural City and the Friends of the Benalla Botanical Gardens and Riverine Parkland.

People attending the event will be invited to provide feedback on what they would like to see included in a re-development of the children’s precinct within the gardens, which is renowned for its ‘‘rocket slide’’, installed during the 1960s.

Community feedback gained at the event will underpin a new masterplan for the children’s precinct, to be developed by Andrew Laidlaw, landscape architect at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.

Mr Laidlaw designed RBG Melbourne’s award-winning Children’s Garden and has provided significant input into the design of plantings within the Benalla Gardens.

In private practice, Mr Laidlaw has designed and overseen the construction of several playgrounds for other Victorian municipalities.

Friends president Robyn Saunders said Mr Laidlaw, who would attend the event, was eager to chat with locals and gain a first-hand understanding of what Benalla was looking for in a rejuvenated children’s precinct.

‘‘There will also be displays of the designs that Andrew has created for other localities for people to gain an understanding of what we might be able to achieve in Benalla,” Mrs Saunders said.

‘‘Our Rocket Park is a vital element of not just the Botanic Gardens, but the social fabric of Benalla.

‘‘Rather than installing a quick-fix solution to our aging infrastructure, we need to talk to the community and identify its needs looking into the future.’’

The masterplan will be financed by the Friends and divide the children’s precinct into sections to allow staged development as funding becomes available.

The masterplan will serve as an important part of the grant application process, with works which could cost up to $500000 and take several years to realise.

Already issues about toddler safety, parent facilities, all-ability access, the site’s use as a social gathering venue, its botanical context, heritage listing and preservation of the actual rocket slide have emerged as important considerations during early discussions council and the Friends have had with the community.

Once developed, the masterplan will be available for community feedback before finalisation. ‘‘We have an exciting opportunity to create a unique space that allows children to engage in nature-based play and at the same time, learn about the plant world,’’ Mrs Saunders said.

‘‘It’s important we see as many people possible in the gardens on the 16th to make sure what we end up with is the perfect fit for our community.’’

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