Help us re-design our neighborhood playground and park.
November 11, 2008 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Help us re-design our neighborhood playground and park. The park is about 20 acres in size and the city will be updating it in 2009. We're going to a meeting tomorrow to suggest improvements and we need ideas!

The park was developed 19 years ago and has not been updated since then.

The playground in particular needs to be totally redone. What cool playground equipment/features would be in your kids' dream playground? What are things to avoid?

The park also has a soccer field, tennis courts, a half basketball court, picnic tables and grills, a segment of an 11-mile-long walking/biking trail, and lots of beautiful huge old trees. Any suggestions for improvement in these areas is welcome, too.

The park is heavily used - it's in the middle of 2 subdivisions totalling around 500 homes. I know we have at least $100,000 in grant money as well as a chunk of the city's budget, so we can dream big.
posted by Ostara to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Splash park

Most modern park equipment avoids including swing sets, for safety reasons. Kids get hurt on swings more than any other piece of equipment.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:25 AM on November 11, 2008

My dream park would have a huge dog run, with lots of doggie water fountains and some doggie agility equipment.
posted by Shebear at 9:27 AM on November 11, 2008

Snyder Park in Sherwood Oregon has the BEST play equipment I've seen in a public park constructed in the last 15 years. Fun toys, that haven't been safety-committeed to death. There's also plenty of well lit bathrooms, covered picnic areas, water fountains (with doggy fountains built in), and a host of apple and walnut trees around the baseball field (grass) and the soccer field (artificial turf, lighting for afternoon/evening games or practice).

The park as a whole is great, but the playground equipment really stands out in my mind. My twelve year-old and I (185lbs) still play on the spinning playground equipment before and after soccer practice. Great stuff!

Regrettably, I can't find much in the way of pictures or plans online, however the park is listed on the city's page, and there's contact info for the parks department. I'm sure they'd be happy to provide information on the makers of the playground equipment - and they might have photos as well.
Parks Maintenance:
Contact Public Works:
503 625-5722

Also, it might be helpful if you gave us your location, at least in a general area. That way we know whether to suggest a hockey/ice skating area or lots of bbq pits.
posted by terpia at 9:54 AM on November 11, 2008

My community built a playground in 1997 with the help of a consulting company, leathers and associates. I wasn't involved in the planning, design or build process, but I've been working with them on sourcing replacement parts and other maintenance issues. They seem to be focused on building cool wooden/composite playgrounds with high levels of community involvement.
posted by pipco at 9:55 AM on November 11, 2008

Maybe consider having garden areas that local residents can adopt and grow flowers (or whatever you specify) in. That will increase everybody's sense of ownership, too.

You might also want to provide little baggie dispensers and trash cans for dog walkers. Also, a specially-designated area for dogs might not be a bad idea.
posted by amtho at 9:57 AM on November 11, 2008

New playgrounds all seem to be plastic and foam and rounded corners and lame. Try to get at least one piece of "dangerous" equipment from your youth in there. Maybe one of those sweet domes. I loved those things.
posted by indyz at 10:10 AM on November 11, 2008

Remember the toddlers and their parents. A lot of playgrounds seem to only suit a certain age range leaving out others. Since you have so much land and money I would suggest a section of playground be devoted to young, real young children such as, Teddy Bear Park or take a look at the playground at the the Tuileries in Paris which seemed to be a whole of mess of fun for a wide range of children and the adults seemed happier with a concession stand with decent refreshments.
posted by jadepearl at 10:13 AM on November 11, 2008

My dream park would have no dogs. Or at least keep them in a sectioned off area and don't allow them outside of that off of a leash. Dogs off leashes are dangerous and can ruin a playfield faster than anything short of a flock of geese.

In terms of the playground, based on watching my 7 year old play the best is definitely a good mary-go-round. After that some good monkey bars / rings and other climbable structures.
posted by Riemann at 10:32 AM on November 11, 2008

My votes: off-leash dog run and handicapped accessible playground
posted by wg at 10:39 AM on November 11, 2008

Merry-go-round, surrounded by that soft rubber matting made of old tires. Modern play grounds are usually designed to be as safe as possible, and as a result, are good only for the 7 and under set, and those who like bouncy horses and large fisher price-esque tic-tac-toe boards.

A shaded area. Most play grounds are scorching, unprotected little sandy deserts, and some sort of overhang for supervising parents is a good thing.
posted by Phalene at 10:58 AM on November 11, 2008

Splash park, for sure. Our small town has one, and kids come from miles around.
posted by raisingsand at 11:15 AM on November 11, 2008

As a kid, I was PISSED when they redesigned our park and got rid of the swings and merry-go-round. After that, there was just no point in going any more. The real treat was going to the park with the GIANT merry-go-round, the one that could fit about 20 kids at once. Another park had tire swings, the kind that sit parallel to the ground, which were also highly coveted. Then there's that faux-zipline thing some playgrounds have, and the metal igloos- those are very fun.

The appeal of all of those is two fold- they're exciting, and they're open-ended. They allow you to construct your own game or story about what's happening. You can be Superman on the swings, or an alpine climber in the igloo, or being abducted by aliens on the merry-go-round. Too many playground planners choose play structures that are constrainingly specific in their possible uses, and thus inhibit imagination.

Anything that involves climbing stairs onto a half-story-high structure and then slowly scooting down a plastic slide, with a stop to play Giant Plastic Tic-Tac-Toe, will be a gigantic waste of money, because no one will ever use it... UNLESS there's a vague suggestion of thrill involved. If it looks like a castle or a pirate ship or something, it immediately gains quite a bit of cache in the eyes of kids who might otherwise be 'too cool' for slides. If it has little semi-hidden spaces inside, bonus.

If some of your picnic tables aren't covered by a roof, that would be very nice to have. Such an improvement was nixed in my neighborhood because people thought teens would have sex in it, but that's ridiculous.

Water fountains are great if you don't have any.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:56 AM on November 11, 2008

I'm going to make a suggestion that you don't forget the parents. Make sure there are benches with good sight lines to the playground. And if they can be in the shade, that's even better. I've gone to playgrounds with my toddler and wanted to sit and nurse a baby, but haven't been able to because I'd lose sight of him or be facing the wrong way.

My favorite local playground has some pictures here. It's a sprawling treehouse, with two swing sets & a rock wall. They did it for about $55,000 and it's always crawling with kids. They also used the ground up tires for a base, I'm not sure how difficult the maintenance on that is, but it's very soft for jumping. I'd do something like that, with a smaller tot playground, and then a few freestanding things scattered about. Kid's never get tired of bouncy motorcycles, diggers and climbable statues.

For more inspiration, I think the best playground I've ever seen is in Germantown Maryland as part of the Soccer Complex. The scale is probably out of your budget, but I loved that it had a little of everything, and kids would just take off at a run to start playing there.
posted by saffry at 1:59 PM on November 11, 2008

In what city and state is this park? I work with architects who specialize in designing parks and recreation centers, and I'd be happy to either refer you to them or ask them for input and advice. My email is mattdidthat at gmail dot com.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:24 PM on November 11, 2008

Hi all! Thanks for the great suggestions so far. For those who asked, this park is in Omaha, Nebraska.
posted by Ostara at 3:11 PM on November 11, 2008

Who is the park for? Who uses it now and who doesn't and why? As a couple of comments upthread have hinted at there is a huge debate between dog-owners and parents about who has more "right" to a community park. Balancing those two groups can be very difficult. That said, things in local parks I enjoy or see enjoyed in my community are:

splashpad - used by babies through teenagers. I'm in Canada so the water runs from May-October.
community allotment garden - used by elders, couples and families
formal garden with gazebo with free concerts every weekend in the summer - used by elders and families (it has a great troll bridge), conceived as a place for "adults only" though
gym equipment - plastic, with playsets gears to ages - rubber or woodchip floor material preferred over little stones
forested area with trails - used by all, trails are wide enough for strollers, biking discouraged due to trail damage, native plants such as raspberries are popular for eating
butterfly garden to encourage insects
natural frog pond with wooden lookout to minimise impact on environment
benches and picnic tables under shady trees
ice rink - in winter
fenced off-leash dog park - not used very much, dogs are still off leash in most of the parks despite its creation
boat pond (splashing NOT allowed)
artists studios/rooms for rent for community activities

things I haven't seen but would love ... a labrynth or maze.

The most amazing, community involved park I am aware of is in Toronto, called Dufferin Grove.

Ultimately, the best park is one the community feels it has ownership in. Good luck!
posted by saucysault at 3:46 PM on November 11, 2008

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