A new adventure playground for Blackbutt got the green light and the cost of running school cross-country races on the reserve's bushland tracks was slashed in a new budget approved by City Of Newcastle on Tuesday night.
The new $1.5 million play facility will be built in Blackbutt's Richley Reserve to draw more people to the northern side of the city's 'green heart'.
Artist's impression of the new playground
The playground replacement will be accompanied by shade structures, seating and BBQ areas, which will be easier for people with limited mobility to access thanks to new pathways.
Pathways now under construction at Richley Reserve.
In a substantial saving for schools and parents, the cost of holding cross-country meets at Blackbutt will be capped at $200. Past events incurred a $125 application fee plus $3 for each runner.
"Blackbutt Reserve is a big winner in the budget we endorsed on Tuesday night," Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
"The new Richley Reserve playground will be another great addition and provide families an alternative to the increasingly busy Carnley Avenue playground and schools will be able to channel thousands of dollars they save on cross country races into other areas for kids.
"Blackbutt is already one of the Hunter's premier attractions and the latest work together with the fee reductions will allow more picnickers and health enthusiasts to make the most of it.
"Council strongly supports better outcomes for mental and physical wellbeing and made the decision to revise the fees in response to a submission during the public exhibition period of our annual fees and charges."
The Richley Reserve work includes signposts indicating the Farrell's Way entrance and opens the site to people who previously couldn't negotiate its steep terrain.
The new playground will include a climbing tower with bridges, slide and fireman pole, rope courses, tunnels, tee pee, rock and stick play, tunnel slide, spinner, swings, sand pit, see saw and imaginative play spaces.
Community consultation between 2009 and 2011 informed a Plan of Management for Blackbutt in which a new playground was slated for Richley Reserve.
Interim CEO Jeremy Bath said council would continue to carry out infrastructure renewal projects and revitalisation while strengthening the city's now-sustainable budget over the next year.
"This budget features a record $90 million program of projects focused mainly on addressing the city's infrastructure backlog and a modest forecast operating surplus of $4.8 million," Bath said.
"This surplus, together with reserves generated in previous years, will help council achieve a sustainable infrastructure backlog by 2022, having reduced it from $117 million in 2011 to $99 million in 2016."
Blackbutt Reserve is the popular ‘green heart’ of Newcastle, attracting more than 100,000 visitors to its nature trails, wildlife exhibits and recreational facilities across 182 hectares.