A freelance writer and father of two, I am interested in almost anything the ever-changing city of Brisbane has to offer. When I am not seeking the kid-friendly and affordable, I am tracking the home-grown and the unique... Come and discover with me!
Published December 23rd 2011
In an era in which many Council Parks contain better furniture, cleaner water and more reliable cooking facilities than some houses I've lived in, I find Gregory Park in Milton to be delightful in its lack of pretension, and in its versatility.
Don't get me wrong—I am far from advocating a return to what I, after ten entire minutes of painstaking research, have dubbed the "Problem-solved Parks Policy" of yesteryear, wherein eviscerated wetlands or hastily-capped landfill sites were converted from public liability into public good through the addition of a blue-and-gold sign and a swing set. In fact, since moving to Brisbane some twenty years ago, I have grown ever-more impressed with the standard of our fair city's parks—a process which accelerated as my children learned to run, climb and gleefully vandalise domestic fittings. Many older parks have recently been refurbished, and now provide better facilities to a broader range of users than ever before. Some of the newer ones are nothing short of spectacular, creatively reflecting the character and history of their particular locations, while offering children a balance between educational value and excitement which borders on theme-park quality.
This balance is only becoming more important as, alas, the boy-girl divide widens, and as the chances of the two of them enjoying the same outdoor activity at the same time seem exasperatingly slimmer. Her Ladyship just isn't that interested in the ball-sports which His Nibs adores, instead preferring the monkey-bars, climbing webs and "imagination games" which these days often make His Nibs shudder with well-practised groans of ennui. Gregory Park's northwest corner boasts a marvellous playground, as the images in this article will show.
However, without the accompanying large expanse of grass in which to sprint until legs and lungs can take no more, or boot a football without reserving a single ounce of strength, or launch a frisbee, kite, or boomerang without fear of injury to self or others, I doubt whether this inner-suburban oasis would have earned the regular place on our fresh-air itinerary which it enjoys today.
It is this combination of hard-wearing open space—featuring basketball half-court, cricket pitch and soccer goal—with high-density jungle-gym equipment which ensures that His Nibs and Her Ladyship can both enjoy Gregory Park, even on their most quarrelsome days.
Add to this key feature some pleasant seating areas shaded by grand old figs, a passing parade of interesting urban wanderers, and the substantial parental leverage to be gained by the presence of a Cold Rock outlet just around the corner in Rosalie Village, and you may just have averted insanity for another afternoon.
It is only honest to qualify these affectionate statements by mentioning that the "problem-solved" history of Gregory Park can resurface unpleasantly during wet periods. This low-lying ground was once known as Red Jacket Swamp, and formed the final boggy resting place for Milton's Western Creek—a fact of which Ol' Ma Nature is fond of reminding locals after prolonged heavy rain. Gregory Park is to be avoided at such times unless you are wearing your oldest clothes, although there is plenty of fun to be had with a boogie board if you arrive fully-prepared to go home filthy. Also, when the Brisbane River floods, Western Creek immediately follows suit, and January 2011 was only the most recent of many inundations which have temporarily restored Gregory Park to its former status as a large pond, in which the local Turrbal clans used to hunt wild duck.
Parents should also note that traffic along Baroona and Haig Roads can be intense, and there is no off-street parking whatsoever. While Gregory Park's size affords more street-side parking than many inner suburban parks, coming by car on a busy day can mean performing lap after lap of the Rosalie area in vain. During school terms, also, the fact that Gregory Park shares a substantial part of its western border with Milton State Primary School means increased congestion and decreased speed limits on roads in the vicinity.
These caveats uttered, however, I feel no qualms about celebrating Gregory Park as one of the most pleasant and versatile in the inner Northwest. In the years since I have been a regular visitor, I have seen Gregory Park host everything from social cricket and soccer matches through to a production by local theatre troupe Grin 'n' Tonic of A Midsummer Night's Dream; from Milton State School events such as the annual "On the Green" community fair through to Council-run Active Parks activities such as fitness boot camps and Super Seniors exercise classes; from wild Irishmen practising their hurley strokes through to sleeping sunbathers stretched out on towels. Wheelchair access and a toddler sand-play area add to the range of options for families and friends looking for a nice place in which to relax or celebrate together; and in addition to the attractions of the park itself, the shopping and dining areas of Centro Milton and Rosalie Village are just a short walk away. Morning exercise sessions can thus be conveniently and gloriously wasted, while sunset strolls under the spreading branches of the figs can end in your choice of romantic dining experiences.
The range of leisurely possibilities in this old and well-loved space is only set to expand, moreover, as in mid-2012 Gregory Park becomes one of twenty across Brisbane to host a hotspot on the Council's free public Wi-Fi network. At this point it is very likely that His Nibs, Her Ladyship and I will simply move in and set up a permanent base-camp. Be sure to pay us a visit if you're passing through—unless it's raining, in which case the best place to look for us will be under the heaters at Avant Garde Patisserie down the road. See you there.