Creating a Place
When I was a kid, we had our favorite local park. It was a simple setup. Just a shelter with some picnic tables, a restroom building and a handful of play events, including two slides, swings and what we called "the pirate's nest."
We would go for picnics or, as I can see clearly in hindsight, just to burn off all the extra energy we were carrying around so my mom could get a break. As I got older, I never stopped going there. My sisters performed in summer theater programs there. I sometimes feel like I walked every inch of those few acres.
It's been a long while since I've been back there. My parents moved to the opposite side of town, so a quick drive past is no longer on the way to visit. But the last time I was there, it still had its shelter—updated a bit—and its curly slide and pirate's nest.
Now that I've got a home and family of my own, we still have our favorite places: the hiking trail around the marshland, the park where we watch the fireworks every 4th of July, the long bike trails, and the little pocket park with its shelter, playground and restrooms.
Creating a place—creating a park site, with its play equipment, its furnishings and its overall ambience—is no simple task. It begins with choosing a site wisely—or figuring how best to work with what you've got. It continues through conversations with professionals in the know, as well as the community it will serve—about what materials and equipment will suit the context best, as well as what's desired.
In the end, when it all comes together, parks create a place where people can build a lifetime's worth of special moments and memories, whether they're the simplest, most sparsely furnished sites, or the most elaborate and innovative gathering places.
This month's supplement aims to help you as you plan your own park sites—as you create places for the people of your community now—and in years to come.
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