Esplanade Youth Plaza

There's been a lot of heat in the local press about the Youth Plaza to be built on the Esplanade. Below is a letter I submitted to the Fremantle Herald on the topic (but not published):

Despite all the heat and hyperbole over the Youth Plaza, there remains some criticisms of it which still needs to be rebutted.

I'm sensitive to the loss of unstructured open green space. However in this case I don't think the argument holds. At the recent Concert for the Kimberley, with over 20,000 in attendance, the slice of park next to the railway where the facility will be built was still largely empty.

It's been suggested that the the Youth Plaza could go on the car park adjacent to the Italian Club instead. But even if we were to annex this car park to the Esplanade as "compensation", it doesn't logically follow that this would be the best place for it.

Furthermore there's a good case that it would be better to green the car park at other end of the Esplanade so as to connect it through to Bathers Beach.

To be sure $1.6 million is a lot of money, even if $600,000 of that is coming from Lotterywest, and yes funds are going to be taken from the 2013-14 general play spaces budget to help pay for it. But let's put this big upfront capital expenditure in a bit of context.

The City subsidizes a whole range of recreational and sporting clubs every year; including bowling, tennis, soccer, rugby and even the Royal Fremantle Golf Club.

To judge the real cost of the Youth Plaza you have to spread the initial expenditure over its whole lifetime and divide that by its expected usage. In an era of increasing childhood obesity isn't it a good thing that the City is putting money into sports that are increasingly popular with young people?

Meanwhile lost in all the negative commentary about the Youth Plaza is some new infrastructure that will help involve older people in physical activity as well. As part of the upgrades to the Leisure Centre this year, both the 25 and 50 metre pools are going to have full access ramps installed.

These are expensive too, but they're worth it. Not only will this make the pools a whole lot more accessible for people in wheelchairs, but for everyone dealing with the reduced mobility that comes with age. I know of people who, while not regarding themselves as having a disability, simply can not use the ladder access to our pools.

The most woeful attack on the Youth Plaza has been the suggestion that both it and a replacement basketball court at South Beach will attract crime and anti-social behaviour. The miserable anti-youth prejudice that this implies speaks for itself.

Only three residents have directly contacted me to oppose the Youth Plaza, and only one of them from Hilton Ward. Nonetheless I respect genuine and sincere criticism of it as there's always other important things we could spend the money on.

But let's be frank; there's also a small number of vocal inner city residents who think they alone are Fremantle, and their vision for the CBD is as a quiet well-to-do retirement village and they don't want to share it.

Some of us have a different vision: a bustling, vibrant, diverse and inclusive city.

Sam Wainwright
Councillor, Hilton Ward
City of Fremantle

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