Supplement Feature - April 2008
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Play Date

Planning Pleasing Playgrounds

By Richard Zowie


While a playground with great amenities results in high traffic, another factor that can bring about a lot of attention is its visual appeal. A playground with bright colors is likely to attract children, while others, such as the Guilford, Conn., beachfront residents, prefer their playground, with colors and designs that blend in with the local area and don't potentially hurt nearby property values. Some places like to be eye-catching with visuals aside from their color scheme. Playgrounds in hot climates might try to appeal more by featuring roofs or shade elements.

"We also get into theme designs," McConkey said. "Then, aesthetics become a very important attribute."

One growing trend, he said, tends to be in destination park environments. These focus on cultural, historical, geological or other local connections to the place. McConkey noted that in Skinner Butte Park in Eugene, Ore., there's a geological formation of fingerlike columns of basalt rock. Needless to say, this is a rock-climber's paradise.

"In the concept of the playground at the location, they wanted to emulate that," he said. "We created custom rock climbing with finger formations. Kids can climb on playgrounds the way older guys climb on a wall."

There's also the playground in Peoria, Ariz., that carries a theme of the agriculture that's been in the area for more than 100 years. The farm theme features barns, animals, climbers, windmills and silos. Another town has a mining theme. Other playgrounds feature children's gardens, interactive zoos and even public art.

Scarbrough said that at their park, musical instruments and chimes were built at the Kids' Castle. These instruments are made out of wood and PVC pipe to make musical sounds.

The aesthetic appeal that goes into a playground depends ultimately on the wants and needs of the community. Hausler said that the unique character of each site depends a lot on how much input you receive on the potential designs during the initial stages of planning.

The unique character can result in unusual features and designs. French-Lee said that their playground's perimeter features a bike path. The path even has "Stop" and "Yield" signs—perhaps a cute way of getting children ready for the day when they'll trade in their tricycles and bicycles for motorized vehicles.

McConkey said that they use equipment that's both very innovative and reminiscent of new concepts in equipment design. "Our equipment engages children physically and intellectually," he said.

Scarbrough said that their playground features security on site. During busy times, they'll have two to three people there. They usually have the security in golf carts and buggies to help people unload their cars also.

Some parks, such as the one Maynard is affiliated with, feature stone dust paths for parents to push strollers.