Local government is notoriously risk averse, but recent innovations at the City of Adelaide mean the Council has been able to change gear and reap the reward of investing in grass roots initiatives.
Fit for purpose
Every day Callum Rogers and Nigel Jordan get up at 5:45AM and ride their hardtails (a BMX / mountain bike hybrid) to the dirt jumps in the South Park Lands. There, they spend two hours sculpting and repairing the jumps by hand – heaving dirt, watering, and whacking the clay into shape.
Nigel has been working at the jumps for nine years. Callum went through high school and university while riding the track. The morning ritual is both productive and meditative, but always, always cut short.
“It gets to about 8 O’Clock and I should have been gone 10 minutes ago,” says Callum.
“The day’s finally woken up and you see everyone going to work and you know that’s going to be you soon. But, it’s just about when the sun is peeking over the hills and going to work is the last thing on your mind.”
Callum and Nigel are volunteers at the City Dirt facility on Pulteney Street. Their mornings are dedicated to building dirt mounds tall and steep enough to throw bikes several metres up and through the air. And the City of Adelaide is not only cool with that, it’s helping them do it.
“Absolutely mental,” says Julia Wallace, Sport and Recreation Co-ordinator at the City of Adelaide, then – laughing – she finishes, “I struggle to get out of bed before 8 most days.”
Julia is a key contact for Nigel and Callum at City of Adelaide and she supports the volunteers as they work through the City of Adelaide’s processes. The City of Adelaide engages a BMX specialist company to conduct a safety audit of the track to affirm the facility is fit for purpose.
Julia says allowing volunteers to maintain the dirt jumps has actually created a benefit for the City.
“It is a little bit innovative because a lot of Councils will just pay contractors to come in and fix the site every six months or every year,” she says. “But… If Council’s doing the work then it’s basically just a Council asset and you don’t have that [community] ownership over the site. So, with City Dirt – Nige and Callum and the rest of the crew – they’ve got that passion and they want to be there and they want to change it… so how can we help them do that?”
The answer to Julia’s question comes in the form of the City of Adelaide’s Asset Consultant for Urban Elements, Peter Rexeis – who has helped Callum and Nigel along the way.
“Pete has been absolutely fundamental to keeping this place running and backing us 100 per cent,” says Callum.
The giant dirt mounds in the South Park Lands near Pulteney Street provide both a metaphorical and literal example of how we can build a better city.
By not only tolerating but also supporting self-starting volunteers, the City of Adelaide is able to provide a much higher degree of safety at one of it’s inherently risky facilities, while simultaneously capitalising on the energy and passion of its citizens to achieve what would otherwise be impossible.
“They’re passionate guys,” says Peter Rexeis – expressing a sincere respect for both Callum and Nigel. “They just do things that we couldn’t do as a Council because it’s so maintenance intensive. It’s the expertise that they bring to it – we just don’t have that. You can’t buy that.”