Surfers won’t be the only ones with boards at North Wollongong Beach, if Paul Peterson has his way.
Mr Peterson, a long-time Wollongong resident, is spearheading an audacious push to build a skate-park complex in Stuart Park, directly behind the beach.
A Facebook page set up in support of the idea has gained more than 3000 fans in just over a week and is kicking off a discussion about the needs of the Illawarra’s skating community.
“It’s an ideal location, with a lot of empty space down there,” he said.
“Even when I was young, I remember talking with a lot of guys about how good it would be to have a skate park near the beach.”
Mr Peterson said seeing skate complexes across the country in his role as agent for streetwear brands including Brixton, Unit and Macbeth had shown him that Wollongong was “lagging behind”.
Citing influences such as landmark parks Venice Beach in Los Angeles, Bondi Beach in Sydney and the Monster skate park at Sydney Olympic Park, he envisions a “world-class” set-up, with facilities for BMX bikes, scooters, roller-derby teams and roller-bladers as well as skateboarding.
“We’re pushing for not a just run-of-the-mill park but a world class complex,” he said.
“I was kind of amazed by the response to the page, but not surprised. There is a need and want for more places for local skaters.”
Mr Peterson’s Facebook page has also been a forum for debate about the wants of local skaters. Wollongong City Council has four skate facilities – Unanderra, West Dapto, Helensburgh and Fairy Meadow – and will soon start work on a planned $820,000 skating complex at Holborn Park, Berkeley.
Tender applications for design and construction of the Berkeley site were received in August, and a tender report is expected by the end of the year.
“The design is still being finalised at this point, but the intention was to put in a plaza-type park, with a lot of urban elements like rails and steps,” council manager of property and recreation Peter Coyte said.
“It will be constructed in the following two financial years, hopefully to be finished towards the end of 2014.”
Mr Coyte said the council’s recreation strategy would consider a skate park in Wollongong after the completion of the Berkeley site, followed by a facility in the northern suburbs.
“In the 2014-15 budget, there is money for the design of a central suburbs skate park in the Wollongong area, with construction probably in 2016,” he said.
“We will be looking at sites somewhere in the city centre, perhaps looking at opportunities in front of the Youth Centre or in MacCabe Park.”
Mr Coyte said the Blue Mile master plan did not consider a skate park along the beach foreshore. But Mr Peterson said he and his group would be keen to lend a hand to build a Wollongong park.
He said a number of “well-connected” parties were interested in contributing funding and would soon be forming a committee.