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Charnwood Bowl

The Charnwood Bowl is regarded as Australia’s second oldest skatepark. Lucky enough this skatepark still exists today, even though it is a bit rough around the edges it is very rideable.

The story of this park begins in 1979 and it seems like it’s always been a bit of a controversial place that has been scrutinised from the very beginning. What we have is a more shallow snakerun that is around 36 metres in length, it stands around 3 feet deep that ends in a medium size bowl around 4-5 feet deep.

Photo of the Charnwood snakerun that runs down to the bowl.

Photo of the end of the Charnwood Bowl.

With limited to no skate spots in the state at the time, the skateboarding community were trying to push for a spot that could cater for the popularity of the sport. Some residents were also onboard with this project as they were seeing that kids skateboarding on the streets was becoming unsafe. There was a clear divide in the community, with an equal split of those who were for and against the skatepark development in the area.

Development of this skatepark kicked off in the August of 1979 in a small park in the suburb of Charnwood, Canberra, yet once work commenced in clearing the site, local residents put a halt on the construction by gathering enough people to sign a petition opposing the project. Apparently the NCDC or National Capital Development Commission did not make the residents aware that there would be a skatepark constructed in their area. Their main concern was the park was not big enough to fit the skatepark as the park backs right onto most of the homes in the area. Some of the people that lived in the local area, were confused why this place was chosen as there were a number of other areas with larger space that could have been more appropriate for the snakerun / bowl.

Article from The Canberra Times, mentioning the parents in the local community objecting to the construction of the Charnwood Bowl.
The Canberra Times, 26th August 1979

As it looks from digging into a bunch of old newspaper articles there were a few local kids that should be credited for pushing the project on. 20 local kids rallied together and created their own petition going against the parents opposing the park's construction. They were also backed by a number of adults in the area that were positive for this project. During late August 1979 there was a town meeting held to discuss the project, which was pushed through and work finally commenced on finishing the skatepark during September of 1979.

Children petition for the construction of the Charnwood Bowl. Article from The Canberra Times, 31st August 1979.
The Canberra Times, 31st August 1979

Now there is some discrepancy on the date this skatepark was actually built, most sources say that it was built during 1978, yet all the newspapers found talking about the park's construction are dated in 1979, so we are going to go with what is reported in the newspaper archives for greatest accuracy.

Gaining anymore information on how this place was used for the decades after it was constructed are pretty limited. There were modifications made to the snakerun overtime, with one of the sides having this gutter added to the top, with like these boulders or large stones moulded into the cement. It looks pretty ridiculous, so not quite sure why this was done as it just makes the lip on one side of the snakerun pretty well unrideable.

Photo of the snakerun at the Charnwood Bowl, showing the strange gutter that has been built on one side.

Most recently the Canberra Skateboarding Associated, submitted paperwork to the Australian Government in regards to a proposed ACT skateboarding strategy, to address current and future infrastructure and maintenance needs. The Charnwood Bowl was on their list of parks that should be maintained and also expanded. There are actually quite a few old skateparks that were built in Canberra during this time. The Kambah u-pipe is another crazy spot, which was built shortly after the Charnwood bowl; this u-pipe still exists and has just been saved from being demolished. This is actually a really gnarly spot, so go and check this place out.

So based on the total lack of information and media, it looks like the Charnwood bowl was used less and less over time. There are a couple of YouTube videos of this place, yet based on its location and I guess limited space it was a spot that just fell out of use. It did make the cover of Skatin' Life a retro Australia skate mag during the Jan / Feb 1990 issue. It was also skated by Ralph Lee during 1989.

Cover of SKATIN' life. Jan / Feb 1990 issue.
Skatin' Life Jan / Feb issue 1990- Mic-D on the cover.

Lee Ralph in the Charnwood Bowl during 1989. Photo by David Pang.
Lee Ralph 1989. Photo David Pang.

If anyone has any further information or media from this spot, please get in contact with us. We would love to hear from you.

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