Slippery when wet: mother appeals for park safety measures

MOTHER of three Carrie Cox is calling on Orange City Council to erect signs warning people to be vigilant around Cook Park’s unfenced duck ponds after her young son fell in last week.

Mrs Cox says she was picnicking with friends and their children last Wednesday when her son Sam, who is almost two years old, stepped into one of the ponds and had difficulty getting up due to the slippery sludge that covers the bottom of the pond.

Mrs Cox, who was breastfeeding her youngest son just two or three metres away at the time, said she was fortunate a friend jumped into the water and was able to pick Sam up after he’d made several unsuccessful attempts to stand up himself.

“It all happened so quickly,” she said.

“It was quite a shock and a bit unsettling. I think it was an eye-opener about how quickly these things happen.”

Mrs Cox said she, like most mothers, was always vigilant when her children were near water, particularly in Cook Park where there’s no fence around the ponds and the gate at the park’s perimeter was often propped open, allowing access to a busy highway.

“If I had have looked down and not seen what happened it may not have ended so nicely,” she said.

Despite last week’s incident, Mrs Cox says she can see arguments both for and against fencing the ponds.

“And I also think you can’t wrap your kids in cotton wool, ” she said.

However, Mrs Cox would like to see warning signs erected, which tell people how slippery the ponds’ surfaces are.

“I just wasn’t aware how slippery it was ... and how curious my son is,” she said.

Council spokesman Allan Reeder said the design of the Cook Park duck ponds aimed to strike the right balance between public safety and “making the most of the beauty of picturesque settings which locals treasure.”

“It’s been a long-term strategy to put signs in place to advise parents that there are a number of unfenced water features in the park, including the ponds, water fountain and fish pond in the conservatory, and then to expect parents to closely supervise their children,” he said.

“This latest incident shows just how closely this supervision must happen.

“The parent involved in this latest incident has written to council with some very constructive suggestions and these will be closely reviewed.”

Mr Reeder said recent upgrades to the ponds were designed to reduce risks, including the installation of a concrete floor and drainage system so they could be cleaned a couple of times a year. 

“The ponds have a sloping floor so that anyone who happens to slips in right at the edge is falling into very shallow or no water at all,” he said. 

“The maximum depth of 40 centimetres is only reached metres away from the bluestone edge.”

He said the concrete floor was intentionally made with a textured surface to deliver a better grip, but that would inevitably mean some sharper surfaces that could graze young knees.

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