PLANS for Victoria’s first dementia-friendly sensory bush trail are taking shape in Ballarat.
The pioneering trail is a taster for what could be possible in Woowookarung Regional Park, which is still deemed in its infancy and still less than one year old.
Parks Victoria Ballarat chief ranger Siobhan Rogan said the park could be a great community space and the state body had been looking for best ways to encapsulate active health. This opportunity came up after Ballarat Dementia Alliance reached out to work on a Dementia Australia grant.
“We know if we have a healthy park, we can attract more healthy people on the move and enjoying being out in nature,” Ms Rogan said. “In doing this (dementia-friendly trail) it can help people with different needs feel part of the part and feel comfortable.”
If successful, Woowookarung will help create a blueprint for Dementia Australia guidelines on dementia-friendly outdoor spaces in nature. Outdoor guidelines at the moment are tailored to spaces like retirement villages.
Parks Victoria has been undertaking extensive consultation on how to make Woowookarung more accessible to more people and a long-term plan is due out soon.
The focus the past year has been on the basics: improving roads, weed management, rubbish removal, and capping mines. The next step is to make the park healthy for plants, wildlife and the community.
Ms Rogan said Friends of Canadian Corridor had been keen to create trails for people to achieve their 10,000 steps benchmark. Parks Victoria had been working closely with Friends of the Corridor and Wadawurrung elder Uncle Bryon Powell, who is helping to advise on sensory species.
Ms Rogan said the project opened up opportunities to also work with the community in design, like Ballarat Group Training in seed propagation or fencing, primary schools to create apps to find plants, or Federation University’s scientific research.
A dementia-friendly trail design would likely include clear, extensive signage, shorter loops and seating.
Ms Rogan said this was just the beginning of a journey to reimagine the park with the community.
Plans for the park follow moves to make Stockland Wendouree a more dementia-friendly place with a quiet room factored into redevelopments set to open mid-year. The quiet room will be for those with sensory sensitivities for time-out from shopping bustle.
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