Stuart Park’s community-focussed future – Wollongong

Improvements to support its current use as a social hub as well as steps to create a place to build knowledge and understanding about the city’s Aboriginal heritage are key focusses of the freshly adopted Stuart Park and JP Galvin Park Landscape Master Plan.

The Master Plan has been at least 16 months in the making and draws upon extensive community engagement, as well as being informed by the Blue Mile Master Plan.

“Throughout this process we’ve been focussed on hearing from our diverse community and the wide-ranging user groups of this space about ways we can enhance, improve and support community access and use of this much lovely and highly-utilised park,” Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM.

“It has been a fascinating process as this space is so well used and well loved by so many people for so many different reasons. It’s our premier park, and we want to make sure we’ve the right plans in place to manage this significant open space area that is alongside the city’s foreshore.

“This Master Plan provides us a direction and scope as to how we can look to enhance this space into the future, while balancing the needs of all those who enjoy the open space for exercise, social activities and family gatherings.

“The issue of managing a space that is at capacity, to avoid destroying that which makes it desirable, with ever-increasing usage and expectation is challenging and requires detailed planning.”

Stuart Park was gazetted in 1885 for public recreation purposes and is a Crown Reserve. Since the adoption of the Blue Mile Master Plan, which included the Stuart Park precinct, Council has upgraded the current playground, installed contemporary toilets, and either upgraded or added in new shelter and picnic facilities.

However, over the past 15 years, there has been an increase in the density of people living in the city centre and north Wollongong and more people from outside the area using the park for their social gatherings. There has also been increased use of the site for events, ongoing development of the nearby Innovation Campus and the park’s growing popularity for exercise and fitness.

All of these factors have meant more pressure on Stuart Park and its surrounds. The Master Planning process allows our community to have input into how the spaces and demands can be managed and provides a clear way forward for Council after being better informed of the park’s significance and community needs.

“What I’m particularly excited about with this Master Plan is the steps we’re taking to recognise this site on Dharawal Country and it’s significant Aboriginal cultural value,” Wollongong City Council General Manager Greg Doyle said.

“We’ve met with representatives from the local Aboriginal community and sought to understand in greater detail the cultural values of this site and how the Aboriginal community would like this to be represented in the future.

“We want to be proactive and to be led by representatives from the Aboriginal community on ways to collaborate on, and facilitate, knowledge-building in our community. The Master Plan includes a new formal yarning circle where stories and information can be shared, which is a first for the city’s Council-managed parks and open spaces. The circle will be in a place near to the small pond, where it can be seen and take advantage of the mature trees in this location – as well as more trees that will be planted.

“This is a positive step for our city, and for the people who call it home. It is also an important acknowledgment of how we can use open space to accommodate the wise-ranging needs and wishes of Wollongong’s diverse community for the benefit of everyone.”

Other key elements of the adopted Master Plan include two defined events spaces, improvements to flooding and stormwater infrastructure within the park, continued use of the space for unstructured recreation opportunities, and tweaks to parking arrangements to improve safety.

“It’s important to note that this Master Plan is a long-term plan and items within the Implementation Plan that accompanies this document will not happen overnight,” Cr Bradbery said.

“Our immediate focus is to upgrade the playground, to make pedestrian and cycling safety improvements by installing a new raised crossing and reconfiguring the car park to include accessible spaces.

“While projects like the upgrade and expansion of the main public amenities, the renewal of some shelters to be accessible, and the nature trail with a bush tucker garden are not yet funded. Having them in this Plan gives Council a focus and something to work towards.

“This really is a positive and proactive document and I thank all those who took the time to participate in the engagement processes. It’s with community feedback, we’re able to create a Plan that supports the needs and wishes of as many people as possible.”

Read the Council report on the draft Stuart Park Master Plan.

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