Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Some Innovative Playground Design Trends and Fundraising Resources

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Some Innovative Playground Design Trends and Fundraising Resources

Article excerpt

Public playgrounds are intended to be places where children can enjoy positive experiences that enhance their physical, mental and social well-being. They also contribute to a sense of community and are a source of economic growth for communities.

However, some challenges exist that make playgrounds less than pleasurable: safety concerns resulting from outdated equipment, hazardous surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt, lack of accessibility for children with disabilities and the threat of crime (a growing concern), to name a few. Funding shortages, the result of tightened budgets, only serve to make matters worse.

Resolving these challenges requires park and rec professionals to engage in some out-of-the-box thinking. Fortunately, novel trends in design combined with innovative approaches to playground use and access to a variety of funding sources are making playgrounds a place to gather, play and stay.

Trends in Playground Design

Following are a few of the design trends that are reinvigorating playgrounds:

Themed Playgrounds--Theme playgrounds continue to be a popular trend. Whether they echo a medieval castle, pirate ship or outer space, these creative, holistic play spaces are breaking the mold of traditional playgrounds to battle ever-shrinking attention spans.

Take, for example, Morgan's Wonderland Inspiration Island Splash Park in San Antonio, Texas, which carries a pirate theme. Believed to be the first-ever waterpark built for people with disabilities, it allows children of all abilities to pretend to set sail on a pirate ship or search for buried treasure as they enjoy keeping cool while playing in the sun.

Inclusive Playgrounds--One of the newest trends in playground concepts, inclusive playgrounds, goes beyond just accessibility (as the ADA defines the term) by encouraging and enabling disabled and non-disabled children alike to engage with one another in play and discovery. There are no "special needs" sections, because the equipment is designed to challenge all children.

ARISE at the Farm, an accessible, inclusive recreation center (http://nofault. com/blog/project-spotlight-arise-at-thefarm-in-chittenango-new-york) on a 77acre working horse farm in Chittenango, New York, is one example. It focuses on the needs and interests of individuals with disabilities in the Central New York region. In addition to an all-inclusive playground, the facility offers a variety of recreational activities, including therapeutic horseback riding and an accessible fishing pond.

Adventure Playgrounds--Although they may seem like a new idea, adventure playgrounds originated in 1931 when Danish landscaper and playground designer Carl T. Sorenscn noticed that no matter what he built, children seemed to find new ways to play on his traditional playground equipment beyond its intended purposes. His resulting question --What if children could be given raw materials to construct their own playgrounds? --would usher in a new way of looking at the idea of play.

Today, there are approximately 1,000 adventure playgrounds around the world, though none better than Adventure Playground in Berkley, California. With boats, forts, towers and a zip line for children above the age of six, it offers a unique play environment and has earned recognition as a "top 10" playground by National Geographic.

Innovative Approaches to Playground Use

Combined with these design trends are innovative approaches to the role playgrounds serve. Two worth noting include the use of musical instruments and multigenerational playgrounds. …

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