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Regional playground brings birthplace to life

The birthplace of Armidale is about to spring back to life, as historical studies help kick off site preparations for a new regional adventure playground.

Council is working with archaeology experts at the University of New England’s School to identity the heritage significance of Curtis Park – which was once the heart of Armidale – as part of planning for the Armidale Regional Adventure Playground.

“That collaboration will include locating the foundations of a number of buildings that were central to life in Armidale, before public buildings and other permanent structures were moved away from the floodplain,” Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray said.

“That information will be extremely valuable in guiding the playground design, to work around existing structure beneath the park’s surface, but can also show us how that heritage could be incorporated into the playground and surrounding public space.

“For example, a proposed flying fox could follow the path of the former Great Northern Road, which ran diagonally between Faulkner Street and Dumaresq Street. References to that history, such as the old flour mill and shop, could add a fascinating and informative heritage aspect to the playground space.”

UNE and Council are planning to use a ground-penetrating radar, capable of locating structures up to six metres below the ground surface, to scan Curtis Park and cross reference with existing maps and historical records of the site.

UNE archaeology Professor Martin Gibbs said the survey was an exciting collaboration between the university and Council, as well as a great opportunity for practical experience for archaeology students.

“It’s a very practical and interesting application of their studies, harnessing their newfound knowledge and skills to assist an important project for this region,” Professor Gibbs said.

Councillor Murray said the historical information gathered will be a valuable part of the report to go out to the public, as part of community engagement to plan the features and design of the adventure playground.

“There have been a lot of preliminary investigations and planning to get to this point, starting with identifying the best site for the playground. There were five potential sites considered and analysed in terms of accessibility, public safety and ensuring the location complements the central business district as a whole.

“We need to make sure the location works in with a masterplan for the region, to foster the CBD as a vibrant community hub which is inviting for people throughout the region to shop, have fun and socialise.”

With Curtis Park now confirmed as the site, soil sampling has been completed and preliminary site preparations will begin in November.

“We will also be liaising with the Local Aboriginal Land Council soon to help identify any cultural matters that should be considered during the design phase,” Cr Murray said.

Construction of the adventure playground, including public amenities and fencing along the boundaries next to the roads, is scheduled to start by the end of March 2020 and is expected to take about six months.

 

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