Iconic WA playground torn down to make way for new design

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An iconic playground that has attracted tourists to a small West Australian town for 13 years has been demolished after the equipment reached the end of its lifespan. 

While it will be closed for the next few months, the Apple Fun Park in Donnybrook will be replaced by a new playground that the local council says will be bigger and better than the original. 

At the time of its construction in 2007, the playground was the biggest free fun park in Australia.

A generous donation from a local couple helped make the initial fun park possible and it wasn’t long before up to 50,000 visitors were stopping off at the landmark each year. 

Two men stand in front of a crowd, cutting the ribbon on a large water fountain. Two men stand in front of a crowd, cutting the ribbon on a large water fountain.
Now-Premier Mark McGowan unveils a drinking fountain at the park with donor Mick Fry in 2008.(

Supplied

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Bittersweet farewell

Jesse Richards has lived in Donnybrook for three years and during that time she has taken her children to the park as often as the weather has permitted.

A small blonde toddler stands next to two apple statues in a playground. A small blonde toddler stands next to two apple statues in a playground.
Jesse’s daughter Emily, 3, enjoying a day out at the Donnybrook Apple Fun Park.  (

Supplied: Jesse Richards

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She said the Apple Fun Park had been an important social outlet for her family when they first arrived. 

“We came down here all the time. It’s huge, it’s free, it’s well maintained and it’s got equipment for all ages,” she said..

“It was something that we used to start getting to know people in the community. 

A group of parents and children gather around a table covered in party food and a birthday cake.A group of parents and children gather around a table covered in party food and a birthday cake.
Ms Richards has hosted many children’s parties at the park. (

Supplied: Jesse Richards

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Ms Richards said the park attracted visitors from far and wide and was often a designated stop for families on southern road trips.

“On the weekends, it’s absolutely packed,” she said.

“A lot of people come from all over Perth, Bunbury and further south, just to come to the park for the day.”

The new playground design is expected to be completed in September and Ms Richards says her children will be counting down the days.  

“Obviously parks have a lifespan and we want the park to be safe for all of our kids to use,” she said.

“So it’s got to be done and this is probably the best time of year to be doing it.

“So long as it gets done and it’s better than it was before, they’ll be happy.”

A young woman stands in front of a fence which is blocking off a playground. A young woman stands in front of a fence which is blocking off a playground.
The park has been a social outlet for Ms Richards and her young family.(

ABC South West WA: Ellie Honeybone

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Core of the community

The apple farming town, 200 kilometres south of Perth, has worked hard to shed its past title as one of the ugliest in the nation.

Small town renewal expert Peter Kenyon made headlines back in 1994, when he said Donnybrook’s streetscape was so barren people just wanted to keep on driving.

But the local community fought back, and former Donnybrook-Balingup Shire president Steve Dilley said the original playground was part of the transformation. 

“It didn’t take very long once it actually opened and word spread.

“And it’s known right across Australia and it’s even got the international fame now as well.”

An elderly man in a high vis jacket stands next to a bin filled with apples in an apple orchard.An elderly man in a high vis jacket stands next to a bin filled with apples in an apple orchard.
Steve Dilley says the playground is as iconic to Donnybrook as its apple industry. (

ABC South West WA: Jacquie Lynch 

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Current shire president Brian Piesse said he acknowledged the blood, sweat and tears that had gone into constructing the original playground more than a decade ago.

“This is not just an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ proposition — this has got growth in it,” he said.

“We’re still going to keep the slides and some of the equipment will be staying here. The apple theme will continue [in the new design] … and it’s bigger than what the original one was.

“We need to actually make sure that we can attract more people who will come to this lovely part of Western Australia.”

A digital design of a playgroundA digital design of a playground
The new playground design will include a rope tunnel and an 8-metre tower. (

Supplied: Shire of Donnybrook-Balingup 

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