I remember when the original incredible wooden fort was built here 30 years ago. I was just getting too old for playgrounds but it was seriously the greatest thing we had ever seen so we still begged mum to take us there after school. When I heard it was getting ripped down, as part of Bayside City Council’s playground redevelopment, you can imagine I was a little sad and concerned by what would take it’s place.

But wow! This is some next level playground. And not in the way some mega-playgrounds just wow the kids at first glance (think Booran Park). What the council, with then help of Lark Industries, a Melbourne based  play and exercise equipment supplier, have done here is create something truly clever and inclusive for everyone.

Thankfully the new Thomas Street Reserve playspace retains the old Fort/Medieval theme, complete with two castles, a sand pit and eye-catching artwork. All the traditional childhood favourites remain, including 3 types of swings, a 360 degrees basket swing, slides, slippery dips and a huge flying fox. Less traditional is the range of inclusive activities and equipment that all children can enjoy. The space is equipped with in-ground wheelchair trampolines (I know right!, wow!), a rocking boat called a Swayfun that can accommodate a person in a wheelchair along with their friends, and a ground level made up of discovery, communication and dexterity elements, and with significant natural materials. 

Even the older members of our community have been catered for with their own senior’s specific exercise space. The benefits of senior residents getting outdoors are obvious – it not only assists with their mental health and wellbeing but also means they are able to be more active and independent for longer. Senior residents can utilise their own exercise unit to help build strength and mobility in their joints while their grandchildren or other young members of their community play alongside them. 

For the warmer months there is a water play area with spouts of water erupting from the ground and carved animals shooting spray from their mouths! For the older kids there is a music zone featuring an interactive DJ Fono space. From the clever team at Lark Industries, this is made up of custom benches that provide an area for users to hang out and listen to music, an idea that aims to involve as many young people as possible. There is even a dedicated Parkour area to test the agility of older children and teenagers. Oh and did we mention the human hamster wheel. So cool!

Of course Thomas Street Reserve has always been a beautiful parkland in its own space with plenty of grass space to kick a ball pr chase your mates. But this all new inclusive playspace really is the icing on the cake and well worth a visit.

Thomas Street Reserve, Hampton