Guest Column - April 2010
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Parks & Playgrounds

Extreme Makeover, Park Edition

By Rebecca Beach

Authentic outdoor musical instruments can add a magical quality to the park. Instruments made from quality material and designed by musicians are on the market and can be easily installed on stands of recycled plastic. People of all ages and abilities will benefit from the musical experience in a natural setting.

Consider inviting food vendors within the park space, but try to focus on those serving nutritious local foods. Childhood obesity should be a concern for everyone, especially those who are responsible for creating outdoor spaces for children. Food vendors should be encouraged to use recycled serving materials and recycle waste.

Once the budget is determined and additional site amenities and vendors have been established, it is time to present the plan to the community. A well-done artistic presentation by the landscape architect will do a great deal to draw in supporters. Count on changes to the plan if you allow the community at large to have their input.

After all modifications have been made and a final budget settled on, it will be necessary to determine if you need to bid the project out to a general contractor of if you have enough in-house labor and volunteers to build the infrastructure. Most playground companies have their own installation crews who can install not only play equipment but also site amenities, surfacing and possibly more.

People need outdoor environments that provide sheltered spaces for family picnics, sunny benches for resting or observing active children on safe play sets, quiet spaces for those needing some solitude, vegetable gardens to raise nutritious food, flower and herb gardens for attracting birds and butterflies. Places full of rich sensory sights, smells, sounds and most importantly full of life will keep people coming back and spending more of their life outside reconnecting with other people and with nature. By creating a partnership of active citizens, park management and staff, local businesses and city officials, and using the services of landscape architects and playground manufacturers, an extreme park makeover can turn an existing ballpark into an exciting outdoor environment.


Rebecca Beach is the chief financial officer and co-owner of Play Mart Inc., with her husband Dennis Beach, ASLA. Rebecca's passion for child development, nature and health influence not only the vision of Play Mart, but also the lives of Play Mart employees and her family. To learn more, visit