Parent Tom Corra helped create a pop up BMX trail for kids in Watson

Hugo McDuff, 9, and friends on the trail. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Hugo McDuff, 9, and friends on the trail. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

You would be forgiven for thinking you'd been teleported back to pre-internet days when walking past the Irvine Street greenway space at Watson in the ACT.

Preschoolers wobble along with training wheels on little dirt trails as teenagers compare tricks on big jumps; parents picnic, young couples wander through hand-in-hand as retirees with their dogs on leash re-route their afternoon walks to make use of the new space.

There's no iPad in sight, and phones are just used to snap the big jumps, first rides and new friends.

Toby Isbister, 9, performs a jump at the bike trail. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Toby Isbister, 9, performs a jump at the bike trail. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

But the area was a virtually untouched and unused patch of grass only weeks ago, father Tom Corra said.

And then he started digging - just a small trail to let his six-year-old son Noah get some exercise near home. But his imagination proved very small compared to the neighbourhood kids.

"Most of the kids were probably anywhere between six to 10 years old, they all come out and they all got their rake or their shovel and pretty much the kids ended up taking over the project," he said.

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Elsa Gomez,11, at the Watson bike trail. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Elsa Gomez,11, at the Watson bike trail. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

"They're all just chopping away and building ... digging away in the dirt, making their own trail and it kind of just escalated and kept going up the hill.

"It's started from something little and escalated into a much bigger, much bigger thing."

The community has embraced the track, which Mr Corra said proved a more COVID-19 safe option than congregating on playgrounds.

"The other day there was four or five families, all sitting having sort of an afternoon picnic while the kids had a few laps on the bike track," Mr Corra said.

Tom Corra with kids Aiden Isbister,11, Abigail Hardy,10, Toby Isbister, 9, Hugo McDuff, 9, Elsa Gomez, 11, Wilkie Denniss, 11, and Rufus McDuff at the Watson Pop-Up Bike Track they helped build. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Tom Corra with kids Aiden Isbister,11, Abigail Hardy,10, Toby Isbister, 9, Hugo McDuff, 9, Elsa Gomez, 11, Wilkie Denniss, 11, and Rufus McDuff at the Watson Pop-Up Bike Track they helped build. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

"I thought what a beautiful Sunday afternoon. And then I actually thought, it's four o'clock on a Thursday afternoon ... [but with] all these families out and about enjoying the sun and the kids riding around, it kind of just felt like a perfect Sunday afternoon."

Mr Corra said the track is only designed to be temporary, a reprieve for both the children and parents as they struggle with lockdown and homeschooling.

"[My son] goes out for a quick nice bike ride, then comes back in time and still allows me a little bit of freedom to get some work done. And that's across the board with a lot of the families in the area, as well," he said.

Aiden Isbister, 11, at the Watson Pop-Up Bike Track. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Aiden Isbister, 11, at the Watson Pop-Up Bike Track. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

However, the track has not endeared the entire community. A few neighbours complained about the noise, but Mr Corra said they have been turned around.

"It would change anyone's opinion where you see a four-year-old girl who's learning to ride - she gets to the bottom and she's high fiving her mum or a dad. It makes it all worthwhile," he said.

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The community believes the popularity of the track highlights the lack of resources put into community spaces in Watson and Hackett.

Mr Corra said while new suburbs get "amazing playgrounds and connecting bypass" the older inner north suburbs were left with old playgrounds that weren't popular with children.

He said while the bike trail could be a pop-up space for lockdown, he wanted the ACT government to invest in playgrounds "children actually want", that are nature based and creative, instead of old fashioned playgrounds.

Rufus McDuff,10, at the Watson Pop-Up Bike Track. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Rufus McDuff,10, at the Watson Pop-Up Bike Track. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

"In the Watson, Hackett area, there's nothing really for the kids. There's a few playgrounds which were built in the 1970s, 80s," he said.

"[There's] no kids on the playground, there's just kids doing laps and laps and laps and laps around on their on their bikes.

"That really highlights the direction of where we should be going. What kids want [is] outdoor play, nature-based kind of stuff."

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Tom Corra. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Tom Corra. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

This story How this group of kids transformed their neighbourhood first appeared on The Canberra Times.