The spirit of Aussie mateship is alive and well at Mosman Park’s Men Shed as they celebrate the success of their creation, a children’s adventure park that has kids captivated from all over Perth.
Squeals and hollers of delight from kids of all ages provide the soundtrack of Russell Brown Adventure Park, with shiny, happy faces yahooing from rope swings and peeking out from cubby houses of upside down bouquets of branches.
Sitting back with a big smile (and occasionally on the chase if his grandchildren are with him), is Mosman Park Men’s Shed member and Town of Mosman Park Councillor Brett Pollock. Three years ago, Brett was approached by a teacher from St Hilda’s Junior School who’d visited Scotland and was impressed by their various forms of nature play.
“I thought about it and thought, this is obviously what we all need, kids need this to take risks and explore like we did as young people,” Brett said. “I went and looked at Kings Park with their Rio Tinto Park and the Variety park on the Subiaco side and they all cost millions of dollars so I thought – we can do this ourselves.”
Being an insider, Brett quickly got the council to agree on principle before enlisting the Rotary Club of Mosman Park for financial backing and the Men’s Shed for man power. The Mosman Park Men’s Shed is made up of about 240 men, varying in age from 19 to 94. Their shed has only been open since 2012, with the intention of providing somewhere for men to share skills and knowledge with the added bonus of companionship. Tackling a massive project like a 2,400 square metre adventure park as one of their first was quite the undertaking.
“The figures were massive, we had maybe 380-tonne of rock, 370 logs, 1200 tonne of dirt and around 112 truckloads of bark which we managed to get for nothing except the cost to cart it,” Brett said with pride.
Donations flooded in from all kinds of locations. A Claremont redevelopment gave the Shed the dirt, rocks came from a construction site in Midland, the Fremantle Port provided those yahoo-inducing ropes and Brett convinced the council to lop down a few massive trees that were dead or dying (“They reckon I devised their death”, Brett jokes) for the logs.
The first busy bee involved a couple of hundred Men’s Shed “blokes lining up to rake the whole joint and get rid of any rubbish”, according to Brett. The site was previously a vastly underused public space with glorious river views and a patch of trees that nothing grew under (“Like any local government you have objections and people were worried about killing the trees so we had arborist reports done up to show we wouldn’t,” Brett says). Another handy original feature was the cooling ponds that Brett used to make the irresistible water feature (word to the wise, bring a spare change of clothes for your kids).
“I worked out that we could make a water feature by way of gravity with these cooling ponds,” Brett explained. “Everyone said it wouldn’t work, but I’m an ex-farmer and pastoralist and understand water. Even in winter, the water is warm so the kids can play in it when it’s dead cold.”
Once the construction finished, Brett had the park commercially valued at $480,000 to build.
“It eventually cost $60,000 including the planning and equipment hire which just shows the value of community,” Brett said. “I spent ten weeks there, my wife wondered why I didn’t set up a tent.”
The community effort is still present with the Men’s Shed hosting a busy bee onsite quarterly to clean up and replenish the bark. Students from St Hilda’s Senior School visit weekly as a part of their community program to clean up (“You know, they’re mainly cleaning up lost property, those kids leave behind enough stuff to sink a ship,” Brett laughed).
“There’s an ongoing commitment from Men’s Shed to keep it as good we can and it changes all the time, the kids move the logs, they move the rocks and the sticks on the cubbies,” Brett said. “I think it’s great because that’s what it’s there for, so the kids use their brains and make the park however they want it.”
And it’s not just local kids revelling in the space, with word quickly escaping about the adventure wonderland and people travelling there from all over Perth.
“Seeing the young kids enjoying the park is an absolute delight,” Brett said. “It’s just magic to think that we can achieve such an immensely successful park – I didn’t realise how many kids were going to use the site actually, which also means we have to maintain it a bit more, but it’s an absolute pleasure.”
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