Serges Column

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Hello St Kilda News readers,

This month, I’ll only talk about one item, our beautiful new Marina Reserve family and skate park. I had the honour of cutting the ribbon on Friday 22 March. It was very exciting to be there, especially as Council also completed two other significant projects in the same week: the roof top at the South Melbourne Market and the new Babap Nairm Family and Children Centre in St Kilda, which will officially be opening in the coming weeks.

Last month, I posted on my FB page that, “I had one of the best days in my life”, but I did not want to say why. I can tell you why now. Council hosted a dry-run of the skating space with five of the top world skaters who happened to be in Melbourne.. US based Eric Koston, who I am told is one of the best skaters ever, said to me at the end of his three hours there: “Dude, this is one of the top 10 skate parks in the world.” And tears came to my eyes. The other skaters were Rune Glifberg, Curren Caples, Sam Becket and local 2009 World Cup champion and St Kilda News Ambassador, Renton Millar. Ryan Sheckler was also going to come but he broke his arm and could not make it.

The past four years have been challenging for Council and for me. But to get such acknowledgement of our work from someone like Erik Koston, makes it all worthwhile.

And nothing worthwhile is easy – this project has been a long-term goal for Council for over 20 years. I think we have built a fantastic space and it is a testament to the power of community and Council collaboration that we have had in place over the past couple of years.

The process to develop this park goes back to 1992 and has had an interesting history. A site was chosen in 2005 in Fitzroy Street and a planning permit issued.  When I was elected in 2008, the plans for the skate park in Fitzroy Street were scrapped at our first Council meeting. This is when I met many skaters and I felt sorry that they had been prevented from realising their dreams once again.

I remember moving the motion, but when I spoke to it, I said that I would fight as hard as I could to get the best skate park build in the best location (as it was included in our election program). At this point, Council decided to convene the St Kilda Skate Park Community Reference Group and began ongoing community consultation on this project and a potential site. Many important conversations later, in June 2009, Marina Reserve was selected and came to be this wonderful multi-use space we have just opened.

For me, it’s a proud moment to see this family park become a reality. This project has turned an underused space, with little amenity and attractiveness, into a multi-purpose park that caters to all members of our community – now and into the future. The successful opening weekend is an indication that Marina Reserve will become a popular new destination, bookending one of Melbourne’s most iconic areas, the St Kilda Foreshore. I hope you can all go and visit it and enjoy it!

The space includes a new active recreation and skate space, public toilets, beachside BBQ’s, a picnic and play area, accessible walking paths, a new bike lane, additional coastal vegetation and seating (with more trees and plants to come) to provide shade, and quiet spaces to watch the water and skyline views. It is a win for young people and their families in our community for generations to come – it will cater for an age group of people not currently catered for on the foreshore.

This space is a significant achievement for our region, for the local community and for skaters from all over Melbourne and Australia. It’s great to have a space where kids can be active and physical and get involved in a creative and fun sport. In fact, having witnessed what has already happened here, it is wonderful for our local kids and teenagers to meet other kids from other part of Melbourne, Australia or the rest of the world and of different cultural backgrounds.

We were lucky to have with us, on the opening weekend, nine-year-old Keegan Palmer, Australian champion skater for the under-18 s. It was so much fun to watch him with all other kids and skaters!

Unfortunately, what happened on the night of the opening is very sad and I don’t want to give more publicity to the vandals who tagged the place. We are talking to the Police to discuss prevention strategies, as well as to consider a range of options : from murals and outreach workers, through to CCTV.

Before closing, I must acknowledge one particular member of the community: a person I have been annoying over the past four years because I knew nothing about skate boarding and I wanted to know it all. It’s Renton Millar, 2009 World Cup skate boarding champion and St Kilda resident. I know you were upset with me when we canned the park in Fitzroy Street, and you did not want to speak to me, but you swallowed your pride and agreed to meet and help us. Thank you for all your advice and wisdom! We did it!

Until next month!


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