Friday, September 16, 2011

Feature: 'Parks to put the roses in your cheeks' for The Courier Mail

16 September 2011
Vital escapes in busy cities, our world-class green spaces give us plenty of fresh reasons to play and relax, writes Anna Angel.
A BREATH of fresh air does a world of good, so get a few lungsful tomorrow, on World Parks Day.
Whether you fancy a cheap and adventurous camping weekend in a national park, a romantic picnic on the foredunes, or a family barbecue in a city park, the choice across Queensland is limitless.
David Clarke, CEO of Australia and New Zealand's leading parks organisation, Parks Forum, says healthy parks lead to healthy communities.
``Not only do they contribute to physical health, but also to mental health: exposure to the natural world is therapeutic,'' he says.
Queensland University of Technology community space expert Dr Gillian Lawson says councils recognise the importance of harnessing our natural blessings. ``We've got a strong tradition of sporting groups using parks, but not of a diverse range of physical activities that are much more widely accessible than a cricket match,'' Dr Lawson says.
But she praised Brisbane and Gold Coast councils for providing locals with fresh reasons pull out the picnic hampers.
One example is Brisbane City Council's LIVE arts program, which will see parks across the city play host to a mix of free music events throughout September.
Another is the city's Active Parks series with free and low-cost activities in more than 50 of the city's parks. The program varies throughout the week and comes alive on weekends.
Tomorrow, on World Parks Day, you can choose from free hula-hooping lessons at Bulimba and clay-sculpting in Mowbray Park, or for $5 you can join in tai chi and qigong at New Farm Park, or try sailing and kayaking in Wynnum.
Brisbane Lifestyle chairman Geraldine Knapp says thousands of residents make use of more than 2000 park facilities across the city every day, but cheap exercise and family activities are a bonus incentive.
``Part of being a clean and green city is having world-class playgrounds, picnic facilities, dog off-leash areas, skate parks and boat ramps in our parks to cater for all Brisbane residents,'' she says.
For information on the full program go to
WHILE some outdoor escapes remain partially closed after the January floods, there are still plenty of options for an exciting family outing on the cheap. A good all-round spot will ideally have cooking facilities or an on-site cafe, shaded play equipment, toilet facilities and drinking water, and accessible bike or walking paths.
Ticking all the boxes is Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha. There are educative trails and a planetarium plus plenty of shady picnic spots, (or cheat and visit the cafe overlooking the lake).
For heritage appeal, Queens Park in Ipswich, first developed in 1842, offers a colourful play area, lookout and nature centre. It's a centrally located space that is a peaceful eco-sanctuary amid a hive of activity.
Clarke believes it is essential to continue to develop on the country's world-class green spaces.
``Australia has some magnificent parks. We are very lucky,'' he says, ``but it's important we not just protect, but build on and enhance them.''
Logan City Council seems to have have taken that message to heart, launching the country's first parkour circuit at Riverdale Park last month.
The main aim of the parkour discipline, originating in France, is to overcome obstacles in your environment with speed and agility.
Brisbane-based Australian Parkour Association instructor Josh Wit said the circuit provides a controlled and safe environment for beginners to try out the activity.
``Logan has paved the way,'' he says, ``and we're strongly encouraging Brisbane City Council to follow suit with a locally developed version.''
In Brisbane, Chermside's 7th Brigade Park is ideal for the more adventurous of families, with BMX trails, basketball, skate rink, and a cricket pitch alongside the regular trimmings.
For a touch of inner-city romance, you can lose yourself amongst the roses at New Farm Park, or grab a top spot to watch the sunset on the water.
And just 15km from the CBD is an ambient retreat perfect for families and couples alike - the Bunyaville Conservation Park. Crank up the barbecue and spread out a blanket, or take a stroll amongst the koalas and lorikeets that call this place home.
Sunset and sunrise picnics at Kangaroo Point Cliffs are a popular first-date choice, and once you take in its great vistas, it is easy to see why. Stay into the day for a barbecue lunch or an afternoon of adventure, with everything from kayaking to rollerblades at Riverlife.
To choose a local park with all the facilities you'll need for a comfortable visit, or to plan a day trip to your ideal spot, simply visit a local council website, which usually offers access information and notice of upcoming events and closures.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service surveys suggest most national park visitors don't venture more than 500m away from the car park and picnic ground.
Find out about beauty spots close to you on
Beat the crowds
NATURAL ambience is therapeutic, but during peak times in popular spaces such as the South Bank Parklands, New Farm Park, Roma Street Parkland and the City Botanic Gardens - especially during public holidays, special events and lunchtime periods - it can be a little too well loved . . . Venture outside the city limits to seek genuine peace and quiet or try a picnic breakfast or afternoon tea. Even then, on a weekend, you may need to claim a picnic table bright and early.
Washed out
TO AVOID disappointment, ensure your likely picnic spot wasn't affected by the January floods, or has since reopened. A full list of Brisbane community parks and gardens still closed is at

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