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Published March 29th 2015
A playground everyone should visit
Driving through Kinglake today it's hard to believe there was so much loss and devastation from the Black Friday fires in 2009 that left most residents without a home and sadly took so many lives. Now seven years on from that tragic day, Kinglake is ready for people to enjoy the beautiful small township along with the playground that helped the community heal.
Having never been to Kinglake despite spending plenty of time in the nearby towns of Healesville and Yarra Glen, we decided to take a small detour to find somewhere to enjoy our picnic lunch. What we found was an amazing playground in the heart of Kinglake called Bollygum Park.
Initially I thought Bollygum to be an unusual name until I realised the playground is based on the 1994 best seller children's book 'Bollygum' by author and illustrator Garry Fleming. Bollygum is a tale of friendship of a little possum relocated from the city and finds herself lost in the unfamiliar bush of Bollygum. Wombat, ringtail, goanna and the sulphur-crested cockatoo go on an adventure to guide her home.
All around the playground is signs of Bollygum, starting from the front entrance gates with possum and wombat, further into the playground is wombats house, frogmouth house, platypus house, story book pages and even foot prints pressed into the concrete. It's a very magical playground to be within a story book.
Out all of the playgrounds I have reviewed and visited for WeekendNotes this one stands alone when it comes to community atmosphere, imaginative play spaces, cleanliness and friendliness of the locals we met in the park. I came away thinking how lovely it would be to live in such a community where everyone has time for one another and the children play like old friends despite having just met.
The Bollygum playground project started with the vision of local residents who started a committee in 1998 to design a children's adventure playground in Kinglake. They set about securing land and found it in the form of a 2 1/2 acre donation from the Thompson family, but funding and grants were the main issue behind the delay of the playground. Sadly when the fires tore through, two of the dedicated founding members Suzanne and Geoff Hyde tragically lost their lives and never got to see all of their hard work come to fruition despite all of their efforts in helping to run a community market to raise funds. After the fires a community grant was issued and the playground was finally built and opened to the public in October 2011. As a fitting tribute to Suzanne and Geoff, the Bollygum community market is held at the park once a month.
The setting of the playground is stunning, on one side are towering trees within natural bush-land and on the other is a cleared paddock. The sounds of birds louder than the children playing and provides a relaxed rural feel perfect for a day off.
Play equipment is extensive and you can tell a lot of thought has been put into it. I really appreciate the number of swings because every child that visits a playground wants to have a go on the swings. With 2 children's swings, 2 toddler swings and 2 net swings it makes taking turns is much easier. Some great ideas include 2 fishing rods next to the dry creek bed, many play zones, a good digger in the sandpit, 2 steering wheels and the set out of the playground is a perfect mix of imaginative and physical play. Adjoining the playground is a skate park.
Facilities include a lovely picnic/BBQ area with a shelter and a small amphitheater. Picnic tables are placed throughout the park as is bench seats. A toilet block is located next to the car park and has disabled accessibility.
Unsurprisingly, the playground has been awarded the 2014 KidSafe National playspace design award of the year for a public playground between $500,000 - $1 million. Well done to all of the dedicated volunteers who worked tirelessly to provide the community and it's visitors with this wonderful play space.