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Haig Park's linear layout means "rooms" concept makes good sense

Given the biggest challenge facing the planners charged with revitalising Haig Park is its unusual linear layout, the suggestion to divide it up into open air rooms has much to commend it.

At 1.8 km long and just 143 metres wide, the 19 hectare park is one of the most uniquely shaped public spaces in the whole of the ACT.

While many Canberrans cross it on a daily and twice daily basis, few would have an intimate knowledge of all it has too offer.

At the moment there isn't even a clearly delineated and well lit footpath that would allow walkers, joggers and cyclists to explore the groves of pines that stretch from Black Mountain to the foot of Mount Ainslie.

All of this could change if a draft strategy, developed following extensive consultation over the past year, gains traction.

Key elements include the aforementioned "rooms" with "activity zones" marked out for both active and passive recreation.

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It has been suggested the end zones, those furthest away from Northbourne Avenue, would be devoted to quiet recreation. This, if the images provided on the ACT Government's "yoursay" website are any guide, could involve, picnics, cloud watching, strolling and even muted romantic encounters.

Zones closer to the city centre would be ear marked for more active purposes.

These could include a nature play area, an exercise and formal play area, an events and market precinct and a "civic plaza".

Some park users have already raised concerns on the "mysay" website about these suggestions, noting they may involve the removal of significant numbers of trees and, if some illustrations are to be taken as a guide, the introduction of built structures. This would almost certainly be the case if the "civic plaza" suggestion was to go ahead.

The lack of car parking has also been identified as an issue that would need to be addressed if and when more people start using the space.

Another point picked up on in comments by a number of users is that the proposal to build the shared pathway around the periphery ignores Haig Park's greatest asset. That is the sense it offers of being close to nature while still within the heart of the national capital.

A boundary walk, with its inevitable exposure to the sights and sounds of traffic, buildings and commerce, just doesn't cut the mustard with one critic posting: "Walking around the edge is the same as walking any old street; a built environment. People walk through the centre to get the illusion of being in nature".

While these are all valid concerns it needs to be remembered that this is still very much a work in progress.

With Haig Park now more important than ever before thanks to light rail and the redevelopment of the Northbourne corridor, it is vital that as many people as possible join the conversation.