Inner West Independent

New HJ Mahoney Reserve Youth Facility proves timely despite delays to completion

The youth facility has three street art walls, open in time for the school holidays and restrictions. Photo: Inner West Council

By ELYSIA COOK

The Inner West Council opened the HJ Mahoney Reserve Youth Facility on June 16th. The facility is stage 3 of the Cooks River Parklands upgrade, and was originally set for completion in mid 2020. 

The area has a multi-purpose court, skate ramps, three street art walls, outdoor study spaces, hang-out nets and an array of native plants. 

The facility was built with a young demographic in mind. Mayor Darcy Byrne said too often the needs of young people are forgotten when public spaces are being designed. 

“This is part of our plan to create a healthier community and deliver first class sport and recreation facilities for everyone in the Inner West,” he said.

Despite the delay to the project’s completion, the youth facility has been open in time for the school holidays, which has coincided with Sydney’s stay-at-home orders.

Marrickville Ward Councillor Colin Hesse said, “At times like this, these facilities come into their own as people meet those important needs to both exercise and socialise.” 

“Hopefully connections will be built between users of the Reserve and the Police Citizens Youth Club across the road.”

 “I’m particularly pleased that it’s located near the Cooks River, as I believe it will help encourage those who use it to think big,” said Hesse.

Marrickville Ward Councillor Victor Macri said that the installation of additional street art walls had lead to declining reports of graffiti. He said that these act as a substitutive and creative space for youth.

“The beauty of the street art wall is that it’s a constantly changing landscape of expression. I’d much prefer for young people to do it there than on the side of someone’s house.”

The facility has hang out nets and a multi-purpose court. Photo: Inner West Council

Need for improved amenities

During the project’s community engagement stage, Sydney Women’s Basketball League criticised the potential for increased foot traffic during their games, the capacity of the toilets and overall unsatisfactory conditions. 

The Newtown Breakaways Football Club shared these concerns, labelling the youth facility a “low priority” upgrade. The club further criticised the open space’s potential for conflicting activities and requested improved public facilities.

A local resident expressed general objection to the proposal, due to the over-designation of green open spaces to organised sports and built structures.

Councillor Macri said the multi-faceted nature of the community space meant that it was attracting people of all ages to the Cooks River and as a result garnering support behind ‘Cleaning up the Cooks’.

“It’s important that those facilities are there because it activates people’s awareness of the Cooks and how it’s such a great, natural asset.”

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