A “dinky little plastic slide” is pretty much the only play space in the centre of Harcourt right now, but after half a decade of setbacks locals sense that is about to change.
Until fairly recently, many locals did not think they needed such a space to come together at, according to Harcourt Progress Association secretary Jacqueline Brodie-Hanns.
“Because the community was dissected by the Calder Highway for so long, a lot of the facilities you would normally find in a town centre were simply missing,” she said.
“They were never considered when you had four rows of freeway either side of the main street.”
Yet attitudes have now swung the other way. Harcourt is growing, with a significant residential development recently earmarked, Ms Brodie-Hanns said.
Plus, the town is attracting lots of tourists to its wineries and outdoor spaces. A mountain bike park opened last month and a miniature railway is under construction.
Play space planning has been underway for five years, but Ms Brodie-Hanns said there had been all sorts of setbacks.
“The community has been very adamant about where it would like to see the playground. That actually necessitated a bit of a two-year struggle with (the Mount Alexander Shire) council, who had different ideas about where it should go,” she said.
“The community actually stood its ground and ultimately were successful, but it did delay the process.”
In the meantime, Ms Brodie-Hanns said other communities in the shire had received funding and pushed forward play space plans.
“It’s a small pie and we all have to line up for our share of it, but we feel Harcourt’s time has now come,” she said.
The council was on board and was considering its wider budget for the upcoming financial year. Meanwhile, it was a Victorian election year and state government funding bodies were showing interest.
“We feel that all the ducks are finally lining up for us,” Ms Brodie-Hanns said.
With the town’s shift in perspectives came wider cultural shifts about what a playground should look like.
“It’s no longer acceptable just to whack up a slide and put in a few swings. Play spaces are now more in harmony with their natural surroundings,” Ms Brodie-Hanns said.
“And they use a lot more natural resources.”
She hoped to recruit community members to a new working group who could commit some time, resources or skills to help council develop plans.
The first meeting takes place on Wednesday night at the ANA Hall, Harcourt from 7pm-8.30pm. Contact Robyn Miller on 0467 670 271 for more information.