Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A new undertaking

Why does Philadelphia make it so hard to find a playground? Our family has been lucky to have good playgrounds in our vicinity, but also frustrated by how difficult it can be to locate any other playgrounds to include in a cross-town errand or other outing -- nobody really keeps a list! The Philadelphia Parks Alliance appears to exist to show off the activity of local politicians, and offers very little information (I'll give you a quarter if can make sense of this). The more obvious Parks and Recreation provides a monster list of its many facilities without clarifying which recreation centers or parks also have playgrounds or other offerings, and it omits several play areas that we had found on our own -- plus, it appears to divide the city in arbitrary ways (e.g., calling most of Center City "South Philadelphia"), making even their sparse regional information hard to navigate. Google searches yield a smattering of individual map locations, or arbitrary sets of outdates reviews on various opinion sites. Nothing actually tells you what you want to know.

So we've decided to make a systematic survey, driving up and down roads and dropping in on various parks as we find them, so that we can (1) compile a centralized list for other parents who are looking for playgrounds, and (2) give some guidance on what each one has to offer. We plan to summarize the types of equipment offered, their condition, the age range supported, and what other facilities are nearby. We also hope to add such experience-based information as how much shade is available and what kind of traffic the playground gets, although that will depend a bit on how often we can visit each site (and how much our toddler likes it). We'll also tag each review with key words that help you navigate by age group, part of town, special offerings (like water sprayers), and other features, so that you can find the relevant parks by clicking in the sidebar. Please give suggestions on other things that would make the project more useful!

The first half-dozen reviews are ready to post sometime this week, and then the project will inch outward over the coming weeks as busy modern life allows. If you have a favorite park that you want to be sure gets included, drop us a line; otherwise, we'll be working through Center City first (say, Washington to Springarden, river to river), making sure we haven't missed any hidden gems, and then spiralling gradually outward through South Philly, West Philly, and parts North as time allows -- could be a flurry this summer or stretched out over a year or more. We'll also update any review if new information arrives, either from commenters or from later visits, but that will take a back seat to getting an initial comprehensive list covered.

Looking forward to some fun discoveries along the way. See you on the playground(s)!

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