Park and playground types

Across the Blue Mountains, there are:

Not every park and playground is the same. We have different kinds of parks and playgrounds, which people use differently, and need different equipment and management.

District parks

District parks are large and high quality parks that cater to the needs of the broader Blue Mountains community. They offer a wider variety of activities and settings and are often the most popular parks and playgrounds.

We have four district parks – Glenbrook Park, Springwood’s Buttenshaw Park, Wentworth Falls Lake Park and Blackheath Soldiers Memorial Park. These parks service the upper and lower mountains.

Our district parks will receive upgrades valued at more than $5.2 million, thanks to funding received through the Western Parkland City Liveability Program. Consultation on detailed design will continue in early 2020.

Local parks

Local parks are the next tier of park – smaller than a district park but still servicing a larger part of the community. Council has 13 local parks across the Blue Mountains. Most are set in a recreational ‘activity hub’ along with other facilities like sports ovals, sport courts, skate parks, dog-off leash spaces and toilets.

Neighbourhood parks

Neighbourhood parks are open spaces within walking distance of homes, servicing local neighbourhoods and villages. They are not highly developed, but still offer a place for residents and visitors to gather. Many also have unique features such as sculptures, mosaics, heritage play items, historic and cave-like grottos, bike path circuits and bush setting. 

Civic parks

The other small play spaces found in our City are called civic parks.

Our community endorsed strategy

Open Space and Recreation Strategic Plan

The Open Space and Recreation Strategic Plan 2018-2028, which the community and Council endorsed in 2018, is our strategy for managing open spaces, sport and recreation facilities, including playgrounds.

The Plan showed larger, more diverse, playgrounds in local parks (and those adjacent to sports grounds) are more highly used by our community. District parks are also the most popular for play and social events.

There is currently a significant funding shortfall to maintain and renew current recreation facilities, especially playgrounds, walking tracks and lookouts and pools across the City. That means we can’t do everything, so Council is focusing on providing:

  • higher quality playgrounds at district and local planning area parks
  • playgrounds with more amenity such as shade and seating
  • playgrounds with better managed risks, in particular fencing, and
  • more inclusive playgrounds with safe paths of travel.

Children’s play

Consultation on Children’s play for the Open Space and Recreation Strategic Plan 2018-2028 found:

  • There is a need for more inclusive play opportunities and safe paths of travel.
  • There is demand for more diverse and exciting play opportunities with a Blue Mountains flavour.
  • There is demand for more youth spaces.
  • Amenity and supervision requirements were identified including: shading, fencing, good sight lines, and seating.
  • There is a lack of easily accessed information on location of play opportunities. 
  • Children and their carers do not always know how to engage with the environment for play where there is no formal play equipment.

Read the full Open Space and Recreation Strategic Plan.
Our Play Guidelines, which were endorsed by the community and Council in 2018 highlight play themes and how these will be incorporated into parks throughout the City, over time.

Types of play

In addition to the different types and levels of parks, Council provides a range of different play types across our playgrounds and parks, to ensure there is something to suit children’s diverse needs and ages.

  • Moving the body play:
    This is play based on moving the body—running, climbing, swimming, jumping, throwing and catching, etc. This type of play needs space to run and play ball games, level grassed spaces, goal posts and bounce walls etc. and also includes water play. It is designed to help children with fitness, obesity management, motor skills, coordination, balance, proprioception, risk management and resilience.
  • Kinetic play:
    Kinetic play is where you have your body moved by an external force, although children may apply some of the force. This type of play needs things like swings, slides, roundabouts and flying foxes. It is designed to help children with risk management, balance.
  • Social play:
    This is any form of play where children meet and interact. This type of play needs places to meet and interact, seating and shelter, and level lawns. It is designed to help children with social skills, self-reliance and independence, resilience, navigating the social world outside the home and in public places is where there is not total control over children and who they interact with. It includes the spontaneous creation of games and social engagement.
  • Explorative play:
    Children are naturally curious about the world and want to find out as much as they can. Explorative play includes exploring the environment, in a hands-on way (not just looking), digging, prodding things, picking things up, collecting rocks and ongoing observation. This type of play needs access to the natural world, places to explore and things to discover, swamps with bridges, stepping stones, and loose materials like sticks, leaves and sand. It is designed to foster learning enthusiasm, environmental understanding and a scientific approach. If children can to ask their own questions and collect their own data they become better students. Albert Einstein is reported to have said ‘play is the best form of research’.
  • Imaginative, creative and inventive play:
    This is play where children make up stories, dress up, make and re-arrange things. It can result in an artwork, a cubby house, a dammed creek, a sandcastle or a mess. This type of play needs opportunities to make, build and control surroundings (e.g. bushland settings, soil, sticks, mulch, water etc.), prompts for imagination, stages for acting, places to draw with chalk etc. It is designed to help develop a sense of self and learning skills, self-confidence, social skills, resilience and ability to adapt.
  • Inclusive play:
    Inclusive play can occur with any of the play styles already described. Inclusive play seeks to ensure that all children can come to, and play in a play setting. Children with special needs and their carers are easily excluded. Careful design can ensure barriers to visiting or playing are removed. The barriers to play vary considerably. Consultation with the local community will help council to identify the most relevant inclusive elements.

How we decide what goes where

Council is committed to providing access to quality recreational and sporting services and facilities that meet your needs and support health, wellbeing and an active lifestyle for our community.

When parks and playgrounds need to be upgraded, we consult with the community to find out what you want in that space. We then use that information to plan the upgrade, along with the Open Space and Recreation Strategic Plan, and within the context of the type and size of park, and the budget limitations.

The cost of replacing play equipment and infrastructure ranges from $40,000 for smaller parks, to over $1 million for district parks. With 105 parks and 56 formal playgrounds, it is not possible for Council to provide everything the community wants, in every space. We have to balance what you want with the type of park and budget of the project.

That’s why we have different kinds of parks that provide a range of play experiences and infrastructure for the community. A local park won’t have the same equipment and infrastructure as a district park, and a neighbourhood park is smaller again than a local park.

Park and play infrastructure over the next 10 years

Not every park and playground is the same and needs the same things. Council will provide of play equipment and infrastructure over the next 10 years, in accordance with the findings of our Open Space and Recreation Strategic Plan 2018-2028 and Play Guidelines. An overview is as follows:

  • District parks – It’s anticipated that the four designated district parks will be upgraded in phases over the next 10 years.
  • Local parks – safe and functioning play equipment will be retained and maintained on site as long as practical. As the formal items fail, a portion will be replaced with new equipment so that there are always two or three items available. Depending on the quantity of existing play, the other play opportunities on site and available budget, some items may be replaced by informal play items as they fail.
  • Neighbourhood parks – safe and functioning play equipment will be retained and maintained on site as long as practical. As formal items fail items they may be replaced by informal play items. The only exceptions would be where a much under utilised item is relocated to a higher use site, or where a playground is being upgraded.
  • Civic parks – safe and functioning play equipment will be retained and maintained on site as long as practical. Play opportunities suitable to an urban setting will be developed where possible.