PHOTOS: Australia's first ever sensory park opens in CQ
THE people of Gladstone were given three very important new pieces of information this weekend:
One, $6.2 million will be coming into the community under the Works for Queensland program; two, Mayor Matt Burnett has absolutely no idea how to work a fidget spinner; and three, Gladstone is now the home of Australia's first ever sensory park.
Okay so maybe only two were of key importance.
Lions Park officially opened yesterday, delivering an Australia-first concept to our very own town.
And even though several tents and marquees were set up to protect people from the sun, the blazing success of the day was obvious beyond a shadow of a doubt.
"It's one of the better parks we've seen," Gladstone parents Samantha Gawhed and Jake Nystrom said.
"There's heaps of room to run around and it's close by. It's even a step above East Shores Precinct and the skate park."
Designed to be a sensory experience for people of all ages and abilities, the park was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's legacy and provides an industry-meets-nature feel.
"Gladstone is an industrial city, but there is a great connection to nature," landscape architect Tobias Volber said.
"DaVinci obviously used nature to inspire industrial innovation so all these spaces are separated ... with different experiences that everyone can use."
According to Playscape Creations, the park's overall form is based on cogs' interaction with each other and provides islands of play and recreation.
"At night, the space becomes a sensory wonderland again, with motion activated lighting and misting allowing for increased use of this destination playspace," a statement read.
One of the stand-out activities at the park was the Five Way Swing Zone, which allows five people to swing in a circle together, connecting people and encouraging a shared experience.
"It's truly inclusive and inter-generational," Mr Volber said.
Hands down the most popular activity on opening day was the custom climbing tower Climbmax challenge.
Children Elena Jones and Aria Heiland said the tower was the best, just in front of the domed obstacle course because you could climb all the way to the top and then go down on the slides.
"It's really fun," they said.
Agreeing whole-heartedly with the girls' positive assessment was Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett, who said he thought the tower was "great".
He said the unprecedented park was designed to be fun and educational, enabling children and adults to explore the seven senses - hearing, sight, smell, touch, taste, physical balance and proprioception, which is the sense of position and strength of movement of the limbs.
"All the different playgrounds are specifically designed to cater for children and adults with sensory processing disorder, auditory processing disorder, autism, down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, spina bifida and visual impairment," he said.
"Its a place and space for the whole of our community."
Cr Burnett also made a quick reference to the lack of trees at the park, which had been a concern raised by a number of residents prompting Gladstone Regional Council to revise its budget for the redevelopment of the park and fund artificial shade areas.
This is in addition to the trees that have been planted throughout the park, which will provide relief from the sun once fully grown.
"We would not have this facility if we had those old gums here," Cr Burnett said, referencing the pre-existing trees that were cut down for the redevelopment.
According to Council, the old trees had been elderly and were rotting, making them incompatible with the vision for the sensory park.
"They were the wrong trees," Cr Burnett said.
Also at the grand opening was Roseberry House, NDIS, Lions Club, uncle Richie, who did a traditional welcome before the ribbon cutting ceremony, councillor Cindi Bush and Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher.
Mr Butcher commended Council and all parties involved on their outstanding effort in getting the park up and running and praised the final result.
He noted the $3.6 million project came out of the Works for Queensland program, which helps get people back into work.
"And now, there will be another $6.2 million coming back into the Gladstone community under the Works for Queensland program."
The morning's formalities came to a close with Cr Burnett announcing the free sausage sizzle available to everyone and a failed attempt at showing off his fidget spinner skills.
Bouncy balls and fidget spinners were handed out as gifts to the children at the opening.
From there, families fanned out and explored the many activities on offer around the park.
Nigel and Anna Warrington brought their grandchildren Harry and Chloe Hill to the opening.
"We like how interactive it all is. We like the moving parts and the variety of things to do."