Illegal Sea Cliff Bridge skating prompts skatepark call

Skateboarders have been illegally accessing and riding in a little-known tunnel inside the Sea Cliff Bridge north of Wollongong.

The secret skating location has caused headaches for the roads authority and skating advocates say it has served to highlight the lack of local skateparks.

YouTube footage shows skateboarders wearing dust masks jumping off concrete wedges inside the tunnel.

Skaters were getting in through a manhole which was repeatedly being vandalised.

After spending $50,000 and even hiring a security firm to guard the entrance, the New South Wales Roads and Maritime Service has blocked access.

Southern Region Manager Brad Turner says he is concerned about skateboarders, particularly young ones, getting hurt in the tunnel.

“We just don’t want people to be in there and have an opportunity to hurt themselves in a place where if they do get hurt, assisting them and getting them to safety is going to be a real big deal,” Mr Turner said.

The RMS been approached by parents worried there could be a repeat of the 1990 Pheasants Nest Bridge accident, when two teenage boys entered a manhole then fell 40 metres to their deaths through a hollow pylon.

Mr Turner says the same scenario is unlikely to happen in the Sea Cliff Bridge tunnel.

“People have got terrible recollections of fatalities that have happened in other structures, notably close to here at Pheasants Nest, and obviously parents are very concerned this may happen in another structure,” he said.

“That’s not likely to be the case here, we don’t have the same shape pillars, but nonetheless, if someone were to be hurt they would be isolated.”

Members of Wollongong’s skateboarding community say skaters wouldn’t break into the tunnel if the region had more skateparks.

Joey Lyons is a Wollongong skateshop owner and former professional skateboarder.

He says the region’s four skateparks are old and in poor condition.

He believes the lack of skateparks forces skateboarders into illegal and often unsafe locations like the Sea Cliff Bridge and a derelict cricket centre north of Wollongong.

“Kids were getting in there and it was real dusty and they couldn’t breath and they were trying to skate but you’d do one ollie and when you’d land and all the dust would come up and it was heaps misty and horrible for them,” My Lyons said.

“There’s a place like that in Fairy Meadow called the Howzat Centre and I think it’s got asbestos in the roof and it’s real dusty.

“They sweep it all out, but it can’t be good for their health.”

Wollongong’s Mayor Gordon Bradbery says skateparks are important, but at a price tag of more than a $250,000 are not a high council priority.

He doubts more skateparks would lead to less skating in illegal places like the Sea Cliff Bridge.

“Yeah, we can build skateparks, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to be used all the time by people that like skateboarding,” Councillor Bradbery said.

“There is a risky element – the thrill of skateboarding is to do it in the most challenging places.

“So I’m not suggesting for a moment that the parks won’t be used but there’s got to be an element of risk, after all, that’s what young people are all about.”

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