Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

December 2nd 2009
Solar Park plan improves meeting by meeting

Group photo from the Monday meeting Community involvement is improving the Solar Park plan proposed by Ergon's Solar Cites team, meeting by meeting. Two meetings were held this week. One was an open public forum on Monday and the second was today, for a working group drawn from Monday's group. Both have seen significant progress towards an impressive community result.

On Monday the Ergon Energy team came back to the community with plans as to how to configure their array of solar panels around the old Sport and Recreation Club area including the shading of the skate park.

Those attending were presented with three approaches. Two were quickly rejected by the meeting for locating too many panels in areas where shade benefits would not be maximised. The third however was generally supported as a useful starting point.

Option 3 with main shade areas discussed in the working group noted. This is a progress plan only as no specific shade areas and dimensions have been decided upon yet.

The third option shaded the skate park but then devoted most of the remaining solar panels to shade an area between the present Solar Cities Centre outer wall and the boundary of the football field. This would shade football and cricket match crowds in close proximity to the amenities of the centre.

Apart from continuing queries from Nelly Bay resident Mike Schmidt over the operational future of the building (to be returned to the community through Townsville City Council after Ergon vacate in 2013) and not within the power of the Ergon representatives to answer – the main focus of the meeting was with how to best locate the structures that will hold the solar panels in such a way as to maximise the community benefit.

Without repeating the to and fro of the discussion it was great to see the meeting adjourn to the outside area to see in reality what could go where. Here productive discussion about creating (solar panel) shaded areas for spectators at oval sporting events, straddling the boundary wall with overhangs either side of between three and four metres to also provide cover for community market stalls within the enclosure, were raised. It was also thought important that the stage area be covered.

Later there was a consensus that a smaller working group be formed from community representatives, Ergon and TCC staff, to tweak the design approach further and identify, in advance of a designer being involved, just what should best go where. The working group would eventually report back to a public meeting.

Since that meeting the working group which includes your editor, Horseshoe Bay residents, Dani Ryan and John Wicking, met this morning with Ergon's Julie Heath and Dean Condon to advance the process.

Of particular concern to the working group is how to insure that the structures are as attractive as possible as well as being of greatest community benefit (read shade and enhanced recreation capabilities) while producing electricity within a range acceptable to Ergon.

Dani Ryan, who initially raised the idea of shade for the skate park, made yet another excellent suggestion. This was that a structure which might be built over the existing open stage be extended out over the spectator area of the ground. This would, in effect, lessen the number of separate structures being considered and by default, turn the raised stage into a de facto grandstand area (when not required for other purposes). The structure might then have a gap so as to allow the continued loading access through the back gate space but then restart further along the wall and incorporate a visiting spectator space too.

Given the challenge of ensuring that the ranks of dark photo-voltaic panels do not become an eye-sore suspported by the necessary, heavy steel, cyclone-rated supports, the idea of a curved structures upon which they could be arranged was mooted. Whilst curves may incur some extra costs it was deemed worth investigating on the grounds that it would be particularly in keeping with the skate-park design while softening the lines around the oval and old club house.

Another issue is that of sight lines. It would be quite unacceptable if the shade structures were to block the view through from the club house space to the oval. Therefore the height of these structures will be of major importance. As only a community working group member would observe: “Volunteer sausage sisslers back in the club house must be able to see play on the oval too!”

The benefits of creating shade for the skate park, oval spectators, market stall holders, stage performers and visitors sitting near the main building while maintaining the open-sky for the (occasional) walk-in movie goers had, to the working committee, a very positive appeal.

With shade, the increased use of the skate park in particular, as a day long, useable, free play space for the often-overlooked outdoor recreational needs of teenagers is a most valuable gain for the community as a whole.

There is much more to do however and the next meeting of the working group is planned for Tuesday 8 December at 4pm when the group plan to meet with skate park users to hear from them what needs and approaches they feel are best for that space. Any skaters and other young people who use the space are openly welcome to attend. For more information contact Dani Ryan on 47581790.

Given the creative energy and enthusiasm many Islanders have brought to this process so far it will be fascinating to see how much further the design can be taken with some professional design assistance.

Magnetic Times will continue to update the community on these developments and invite all with an interest in it to use our comments box below and be part of a community discussion on the subject.

Story: George Hirst
Photo: Kylie Dodd

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Readers comments
Syl Hayes In reply to Fair raises $15,000 for school
What a wonderful outcome for the school! I had a great time face-painting with Luke and Sasha, met lots of kids and parents,scored some great books at the Trash n Treasure stall, and even remembered to vote. Everywhere you looked people were enjoying themselves...such a tribute to the organisers. Well done!
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