The transformation from an urban reservoir to a beautifully crafted play space for the children of Melbourne to enjoy is now complete. After a long wait which resembled the gestation period of an elephant rather than that of a tadpole which frequented the reservoir in its past life, the play space is now open.
A huge 10m high double dome rope climbing net is the only way to reach the top of the slide (unless you are skilled in levitation) which towers above the playground. If you want to experience the thrill of the ride down then you'll have to experience a bit of terror to get up to the entrance of the slide. Firstly you need to get across and up the rope net which hangs high above the ground and then squeeze your way up a vertical enclosure which has protruding sections to make you crawl and twist up like a caterpillar. You then escape up into the enclosed dome where you can take in the expansive views around the playground or head straight for the slide. The slide is straight and fast and then makes an abrupt turn near the ground where you come to a screeching halt. Be prepared for a few scraped elbows. I think the council should be providing a box of tissues for this area because there was a lot of crying happening. Once you cross the first tricky section of net and fear suddenly strikes, then you have a difficult decision to make - come back to terra firma (where there is less terror and more firmer) via the net section or continue on to the top and come down the slide.
Access to the net for the slide is via an oversized concrete water pipe tunnel and large climbing mounds. Water blue coloured soft base material flows around the huge water pipe. There are various routes to the top of the pipe including a path of soft dots, a series of ledges, an area of rock climbing holds, rocks to clamber up and a scrambling rope. To get down there is a choice of a curved metal slide or for adventurous there is a set of curvy parallel bars.
There is a large semi-circular elevated sandpit with a sand digger. On one side of the sandpit is a play area with a small wide metal slide descending from the sandpit, an oversized mouse wheel (why should mice have all the fun), pentagonal frame with five swings of various types including one with a harness, a ball on springs, a cup to sit in and spin around until you are a dizzy mess, a Dutch Disc spinner to sit on (let Dad spend all his energy spinning it around) and stepping stones for balance feats. A long concrete pipe is crossed by a wobbly bridge. Rock steps lead to a little private clump of pine trees with some more stepping stones and a pipe crown or cage (depending on what Fairy Story you are currently reading).
On one side of the sand pit there an integrated water course featuring water pumps, channels, an Archimedes screw, weirs and water gates flowing into a rock lined trickle stream with giant frog sculpture. Next to here is a water ripple pole maze. Look out for the sculptures highlighting the lifecycle of that huge frog. How could a tadpole grow to that size?
This area also has a giant birds nest swing and some on-ground trampolines.
On the east side of the playground along the wall are two flying foxes (one with a harness and the other with a disk seat) and the active sports area. Beside the colourful wall with sporting motifs is a good sized basketball court in a semi-circular shape and another area which has some opportunities for cricket, tennis, netball, futsal (5 a side football) and four square. These sports are facilitated by some cricket stumps, soccer net and tennis net painted on the wall.
The water splash area is at the other end of the playground and is composed of areas of water sprays from the ground. There is a round area laid with rocks which has a large circle of sprays and three smaller circles of sprays beside it. There is also a line of sprays around the edge. The water splash area slopes away and passes through a series of concrete lily pads before reaching the drain. The water play area is quite simple and there are no added elements such as pipe sprays or tipping water buckets. There is a lot of seating around the spray area and five of the seating areas have shade from an umbrella (if the sun is in the right position). This area is going to be fun on a warm day but lacks the excitement factor of some other water play parks. We couldn't work out how to activate the water but we'll leave the answer to that question for someone smarter than myself.
There are plenty of grassy areas (not big enough to kick a football) but nice to lay down a picnic blanket. There are two boat shaped shelters in different areas of the playground which have two rectangular tables, two BBQs, three round tables and some extra seating along the side. There is a water tap and two toilets next to each of the shelters.
Some parts of the original reservoir have been retained which is a nice aspect. The imposing main entrance gates were constructed from a sluice gate and there are old pumps prominently displayed. Along two walls there are boards with photos and information about the history of the site plus displays on flora and fauna.
Rain gardens which take the form of rocky watercourses line the side of the playground area along Booran Road. At the corner of Booran Road and Glen Huntly Road there is an Audio-Visual display which highlights events happening in the space.
Just went you think you've seen everything, you'll spot a new engaging element such as quizzes and fun games like tic-tac-toe embedded into the seats. The play space is truly immersive.
The whole playground is already nicely landscaped and visually stunning.
The play space caters to a broad range of ages and abilities and everyone should be able to find something of interest here.
A car park for about 35 cars has been built in Alamar Avenue at the north end of the reserve which is accessible off Booran Road. There is also all-day car parking available at nearby Glen Huntly Reserve (about 250 metres away to the north along Booran Road). Parking restrictions apply in local streets and so you need to be careful to observe the signs. It is also in a good proximity to public transport.
Even if you have spent $10.8 million on the playground there are going to be some issues. The playground is not fenced, there isn't a lot of parking available in the area and the amount of play equipment is a little limited considering the huge number of visitors this playground is likely to attract. However, this place will be a destination playground for people all across Melbourne for years to come.