Supplement Feature - April 2011
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Mix and Match

When Outfitting Your Park, Context Matters

By Emily Tipping

Let's Eat

Picnic areas represent a huge opportunity to make your park shine. First and foremost, you want to ensure you're providing a comfortable environment for patrons to dine in the great outdoors. Picnic tables—including accessible picnic tables, which generally extend beyond the frame to allow patrons in wheelchairs to easily access the table—are an absolute must.

Garbage cans will also be needed here, but be sure not to place them too close to the eating area, or picnickers may be plagued by bees and other pests. Designers suggest 10 to 20 feet as the ideal distance between seating and garbage cans.

If you'd like an opportunity to generate a little extra money with your picnic area, go all out and provide beautiful shelters with electrical hookups. These can be rented out, especially for larger events like family reunions. Lighting will also be helpful for events that take place as the sun is going down.

Grills and fire rings are also appropriate choices for your picnic area.

Be sure to place the picnic area relatively close to the parking area. Visitors will be unhappy if they have to trek across the entire park with their cooler and goodies.

Time to Play

Playgrounds again offer a spot to locate standard amenities. You'll want to include benches so that parents can sit and watch their children at play. Benches without seatbacks can be helpful when placed in between play structures for younger tots and older children. This way, a parent with kids playing on both structures can easily change their gaze from one side to the other. Be sure to place the benches in a spot that provides good sight lines to the playground. Obstacles will decrease the parents' ability to supervise from afar.

Signage at the playground can let children and parents know the rules and appropriate ages for the structures.

Playgrounds provide the perfect spot to make use of bright colors. While many playgrounds are moving toward natural colors as manufacturers focus on the natural play trend, there are still plenty of play spaces with bright, popping primary colors. Benches, picnic tables and garbage cans that match this aesthetic will help draw kids in and will set the space apart.

Themes highlighted on the playground can also be carried out in the site furnishings. Many manufacturers offer the ability to customize furnishings and amenities. For example, a shelter's railings might be cut to reflect a nautical theme represented by the play structure.