Saturday, November 20, 2010

A nice destination in cooler months: Powel Public School

Playground: Samuel Powel Public School
Location: Powelton between 35th & 36th
Date visited: 11/14/10

Equipment: Two playsets:
  • Smaller has various types of climbing, two plastic slides (one short and straight, one taller and spiral), and a store window playspace underneath.
  • Larger has two tall plastic slides (one straight with moguls and one curved and irregular), monkey bars of varying height, hanging bars, and a steep climbing wall.
Also here is a long circular stone wall surrounding a tree stump, both of which provide for additional play opportunities.
Ages: 1-12
Surface: rubbery around equipment; woodchips elsehwere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: blacktop area with lots of painted games, maps, etc.; picnic tables
Access: open?

Impressions: Nicely designed newish playground offers fun for a range of ages in a compact space. The open blacktop and picnic tables make this a nice place for an extended visit, and an adjacent playspace across 35th fills in with more choices and a couple of bucket swings (the key absence here). Nice for a fall afternoon in West Philly.
Overall rating: 8

Good for older kids: Drew School playground

Playground: Drew School
Location: Powelton & 38th
Date visited: 11/14/10

Equipment: One medium playset, with three metal slides (paired straight and single spiral), monkey bars, a stretch of elevated "stepping stones," a jumping pad, and various climbing (including an unusual kind of climbing wall/ladder, ascended with the help of a chain rope).
material: modern resin and metal; scale: large blacktop area with compact play structure
Ages: 2-12
Surface: rubbery around equipment; blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: large blacktop area, including some painted games
Access: open gates (dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: Playset in a large blacktop schoolyard near a muralled school offers an interesting mix of play challenges, probably better aimed at slightly older kids; our nearly 3-year-old veteran explorer couldn't really take on the stepping stones or climbing wall and was nervous about the bouncy platform/jumping pad. No swings, and little for the youngest set, but good for some challenges, and/or with a ball or skateboard in tow. Also somewhat fun for goofy parents. :)
Presumably busy on school days...
Overall rating: 7+

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The far south: Greenwich Rec. Center

Playground: Greenwich Recreation Center
Location: 3rd and Shunk (SW)
Date visited: 10/9/10

Equipment: Two playsets in close proximity:
  1. Very low (2.5-foot) platform, with easy climbing, animal-body "tic tac toe" variant, a solid flat bridge, and double plastic slide(s).
  2. Taller has good mix of climbing, one straight metal and one spiral plastic slide, and monkey bars.
Two bucket and one strap swing, and an extra piece of equipment that has straight bars for hanging or climbing.
Ages: 1-7
Surface: rubbery composite around equipment; grass or cement elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 1+
Water: N
Other: swimming pool, football field, extra grassy area, basketball, mural-covered rec center, and extra blacktop with painted games
Access: not marked

Impressions: Nice large space overall, but compact play zone. Equipment is colorful but abused -- worn holes in the rubbery surface, graffitti and missing paint, and, worst, stubs of former equipment jutting up just a little above the ground...
Overall rating: 6

Eagles Unity Playground (in Mifflin Square)

Playground: Eagles Unity Playground
Location: 6th and Wolf (open)
Date visited: 10/9/10 (Saturday at noon)

Equipment: Two main playsets:
  • Larger has monkey bars, swinging rings, a zip line (ring missing), lots of climbing types, parallel bars, solid and jointed bridges, one metal slide (a second one missing and boarded up), and benches underneath.
  • Smaller has steps and simple climbing, double plastic slides (soaked with mud/coffee/worse at visit).
Also what appears to be a set of water sprayers in a large cement circle (off at time of October visit), and a set of swings (2 strap, 2 bucket).
Ages: 1-8 (10?)
Surface: rubbery around equip.; cement, brick, grass elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0 (larger), 2 (smaller)
Water: Y?
Other: Volleyball pits, basketball, lots of grass, small picnic table area
Access: open (dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: Cheerful and fun, with lots of options packed into each piece of equipment. However, in need of upkeep, from missing or broken pieces to trash issues. Lots of happy kids there when we visited, in a range of ethnicities. Interesting gold-leaf-covered Thai temple across the street to the south.
Overall rating: 7

Far West Philly: Christy Recreation Center

Playground: Christy Rec. Center playground
Location: 56th & Webster (park extends to Christian and 55th); playground on north side
Date visited: 10/31/10

Equipment: Big stretch of swings, including 8 strap and 4 bucket, and two playsets:
  • Smaller has a 3-4 foot platform with lots of climbing of varied difficulty and one metal slides. There are also two hobby horses in this area (one horse and one pelican).

  • Larger has platforms from 4-6 feet high, lots of climbing, and two straight metal slides of different heights.
material: weathered resin & metal; scale: small playspace in larger park
Ages: 2-7
Surface: rubbery around equipment; blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: swimming pool, basketball court, large grassy field (including a baseball diamond), large rec. center. and tennis courts with no nets
Access: not posted

Impressions: Weathered but perfectly adequate older playground. Hobby horses and extra swings are pluses, as are the range of ladder types for curious climbers. But nothing special here to pull anybody from outside the neighborhood.
Overall rating: 6

A mix of unusual offerings: Malcolm X Park

Playground: Malcolm X Park
Location: between Pine & Larchwood, 51st & 52nd
Date visited: 10/31/10

Equipment: Several structures in two neighboring zones: One zone combines the equipment designed for smaller kids (marked 2-5) with a subzone of individual challenging pieces aimed at a range of ages; the second zone is a large playset intended for older kids (marked 5-12).
  • The small kid playset has two metal slides and some low ladders. There are also two trucks made of metal and wood, that an be attempted by even pretty small kids. Also right here are two "spaceship" pieces that offer various ways to enter (under, through a hole, etc.) and some dashboard-looking gizmos for pretend play. There's also a purple gizmo that promises some sort of auditory interaction, but it's either broken or inscrutible.

    The more adventure-seeming subzone here has a very low balance beam enclosed by rails (although tots will need overhead hands to attempt it) and a similar piece where the walking is on the suspension chains themselves (also inches from the ground). For older kids, there's a wavy narrow "balance beam" that's a couple of feet off the ground (no rails), a climbing net (metal, partly broken) to a fireman's pole, a short stretch of monkey bar rings, a zip line ring, and a set of angled climbing rails that offer a challenge for the more adventurous. There's also a sort of climbing wall here (with footholes rather than knobs), and a little gazebo-covered table with stools around it (several missing their seats).

  • The larger playset has a range of challenging climbing options, 4 metal slides (2 straight, 1 double, 1 spiral), and solid bridges. Also connected is another long zip line ring, some climbing walls, and a balance/bounce platform (I dunno how to describe this, but it was fun). Nearby is a pair of plastic basketball hoops at different heights in the center of a small cement area.
material: modern resin and metal, or as marked; scale: substantial play space inside a full-block park
Ages: 1-12
Surface: rubbery around equipment, mostly grass elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 2
Water: N
Other: picnic table, small covered area (bandstand?), tiny muraled building (shed? rec. center?), grassy park

Access: open park (dawn to dusk?)
Impressions: Wonderfully colorful and creative playground with challenges for all ages, in a grassy park full of mature trees. Some graffitti and signs of abuse, but not yet enough to interfere with the wealth of fun here. Rating docked for lack of swings, which can be critical for babies, but otherwise pretty neat, and worth a trip from other parts of town. Definitely stuff here we've never seen anywhere else, especially for families with kids of varied ages.
Also note: coffee shop and pizza place both across the street widen the options for an outing here.
Overall rating: 9

Thursday, October 21, 2010

East of Temple, Part II: 8th & Diamond playground

Playground: 8th & Diamond
: SW corner of 8th & Diamond
Date visited: 10/17/10

Equipment: one playset, generally aimed at younger kids, with miscellaneous climbing, 1 solid bridge, 2 metal slides (3 ft, 4 ft), bench and tic-tac-toe underneath, 4 strap swings (straps at 2 heights), 4 bucket swings
Ages: 1-5
Surface: spongy by equipment, blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: Yes (sprayer on post in cement area, off when visited)
Other: basketball court, small rec center
Access: 6 AM - 10 PM

Impressions: Limited age range, but appealing for that age range -- especially good for kids starting to be interested in ladders, as there are a range of challenges available. Kept up in reasonable shape (e.g. there was a community garden, and a Sunday AM church service in the rec center when visited).
Overall rating: 7

East of Temple: McKinley Eagles playground

Playground: McKinley Eagles Playground
Location: Orkney and Susquehanna (SE corner)
Date visited: 10/17/10

Equipment: 1 substantial playset, including some climbing, 3 metal slides (2 straight 1 spiral), zip-line, row of stepping stones, hanging bar, jointed bridge, puppet window, no swings
Ages: 2-8
Surface: spongy near equipment, blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: No
Other: basketball courts, picnic table
Access: not posted

Impressions: Equipment is reasonable but not extensive: just one playset, no swings, no extras. Aesthetically, there are significant plusses---colorful murals on the adjacent school and colorful cupolas over the platforms of the playset---though we're talking about a sea of blacktop with no trees.
Overall rating: 7

Sunday, September 26, 2010

First visit to near Northeast, Part II: Roosevelt Playground

Playground: Roosevelt Playground
Location: corner of Hellerman and Walker
Date visited: 9/22/10

Equipment: Larger jungle gym (3 ladders, big turning slide, straight slide, 3 bridges, 2 turn-the-pieces puzzles, Tic-Tac-Toe), Smaller jungle gym (4 ladders, big slide, tall steps, sliding pole, monkey bars), 4 strap swings, 4 bucket swings, 3 broken rocking animals (barely rock), stone elephant sculpture
Ages: 2-8
Surface: rubbery surface by equipment
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: Stone elephant seems to be a sprinkler
Other: Rec center, playing fields
Access: could be gated, not sure about hours

Impressions: Pleasant atmosphere and decent equipment, kept in pretty good shape (though a small scum-puddle near the elephant when visited). A bit surprising that the larger jungle gym is more accessible to smaller kids, while the smaller one requires ladder or climbing access, but decent equipment for range of ages (though too bad that all 3 rocking animals are basically not functional).
Overall rating: 7

First visit to near Northeast: Vogt Playground

Playground: Vogt
Location: Unruh Ave., just north of Cottage St.
Date visited: 9/22/10

Equipment: Large jungle gym (5 ladders, steps, turning slide, regular slide, monkey bars), small jungle gym (4 ladders, 2 steps, 3 slides), 4 strap swings (tall), 4 bucket swings, 2 rocking animals (old), 2 space-pods connected by bridge, hopscotch
Ages: 1-8
Surface: rubbery around play equipment, cement elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: None
Other: Rec Center, many playing fields
Access: Could be gated, hours unknown

Impressions: Fairly big playground, among an enormous complex of playing fields. Ambience is quite nice, with central benches under trees. Equipment in decent shape (though not super-new) and fairly well maintained (though hanging bar above one slide was coated with gooey bubble gum -- yuck).
Overall rating: 7

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Outskirts of Temple III: Winchester Playground

Playground: Winchester playground
Location: 15th just North of Dauphin
Date visited: 8/28/10

Equipment: Small playground with three compact playsets, colorful metal and plastic:
  • Stairs, ladder, straight climbing wall, short and tall plastic slides, curve of "monkey bar" rings, chimes
  • Wood-look plastic set with sloped and straight climbing walls, novel disk-style wobbly ladder, and tall plastic slide with bumps
  • Stairs and novel rock-pile steps (like an irregular staircase climber) and two plastic slides (straight & curved) and a (partly functional) ball bearing spin toy
Ages: 1-7
Surface: rubbery around equipment, cement elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 2
Water: N
Other: basketball courts on both sides, small grassy field
Access: open

Impressions: Practically new, colorful, and fun, these little playsets are real gems of fun and challenge -- novel climbing modes, good and varied slides, lots of fun. Will mostly appeal to tots through elementary ages, but worth going out of your way once with an enthusiastic climber. No swings though.
Overall rating: 8

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Outskirts of Temple II: Amos playground

Playground: Amos playground
Location: 16th and Berks
Date visited: 8/28/10

Equipment: Small playground and rec. center in a little niche of public space surrounded by Temple ball fields and frat houses. Several play structures:
  1. A playset with a river of monkey bars and two metal slides (3 and 6 feet tall)
  2. An older-style metal-bar "fire truck" to climb around on, including one low metal slide and a wooden bench driver's seat. Low running boards might be reachable by crawlers and standers.
  3. Angled cement climbing piece (tunnel under, saddle shape above, with window holes)
  4. Cylindrical jungle gym
  5. Swingset with 2 strap swings and 2 empty spaces
material: weathered "resin and metal" type; scale of space: small
Ages: 1-8
Surface: rubbery around structures; cement elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: Basketball, beautifully muralled/mosaic rec. center, picnic tables in corner, fenced cement zone (for balls and skateboards? no basketball net), closed former pool
Access: 6am - 10pm (not gateable)

Impressions: Very cute but poorly maintained playground offers a fun variety of play equipment for a surprising range of ages in a small space. Lack of shade and bucket swings are a real shame. I gather that this playground was redone within the last 10 years -- it could use a little paint and other love, especially given the contrast with the shining Temple playspaces on the other side of the fence . . .
Overall rating: 6-7

Outskirts of Temple I: Dendy Recreation Center

Playground: Marie Dendy rec. center playground
Location: 10th between Jefferson and Oxford
Date visited: 8/28/10

Equipment: One continuous zone with several play structures:
  1. A freestanding metal slide, around 4ft. high
  2. A large playset with lots of climbing bits and one tall (6-ft) metal slide
  3. A small playset (platforms around 3ft. tall) with several types of climbing and two plastic slides -- one wide and straight, the other curved
  4. A neat sculpture with three sleek metal dolphins (good for young climbers) circling a central structure (somewhat vertebral in appearance) -- could be a fountain/sprayer, but not contained in any sort of pool, so might or might not be functional
  5. A swing set with space for 4 swings, but only 1 bucket was present at time of visit (other spaces empty)
Ages: 1-7
Surface: rubbery around equipment; blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 2
Water: ?
Other: basketball (lots), grassy field with baseball diamond(s), rec. center building, pool, tennis courts with no nets, blacktop areas (hopscotch squares)
Access: not posted (= dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: Serviceable equipment in a pleasant shady space with varied space for play and meandering. Lack of swings a definite minus, cute sculpture and possible water a plus. Little kids might enjoy the dolphins. Space could hold a lot of activity, but nobody was there on a pleasant Sunday morning; still, seems a great neighborhood resource.
Overall rating: 6

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Grand ambitions, but a little short: Guerin

Playground: Guerin recreation center
Location: 16th & Jackson (SE corner), main entrance on 16th
Date visited: 8/15/10

Equipment: Substantial fenced play zone marked "12 and under" -- not really divided into subzones, but with a number of pieces of equipment:
  1. A lower playset, marked for ages 2-5, with a couple of types of climbing, platforms 3-5 feet high, one metal and two plastic slides (one curved and one with moguls), and arched bridge and a narrower "canyon" walkway, bench underneath. Has one of those spinnable bead games, but instead of tic-tac-toe, it has animal heads/bodies/feet.
  2. Higher playset, marked for ages 5-12, with various climbing, curved arch bridge and canyon walkway, two metal slides of different heights, bench and some other fun bits underneath (including some gears).
  3. A "hobby horse" shaped like a bulldozer (and space where another one is missing).
  4. Swings: 4 strap, and space for 4 buckets, the latter all missing or broken.
  5. Circular water zone with a pipe sprayer.
  6. Fun modern rope-ish variant on a compact jungle gym, pyramid-shaped for conquering.
Ages: 1-8
Surface: rubbery around equipment; cement elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y
Other: Rec. center and smaller building, small picnic tables (some broken seats), and huge blacktop area lit for some kind of organized use (fall football, summer camp stuff)
Access: summer: 9am-10pm; otherwise, 1:30-10pm

Impressions: This playground is colorful and creative, and looks like it was designed to be a showcase/destination playground, but it falls a bit short. First, it suffers from the common problem of underestimating the abilities of children (and thus not offering any real challenges for older kids). Second, some combination of neglect and abuse has decreased its offerings -- the lack of bucket swings seems really a shame. Landscaping here is pretty, but it doesn't actually put any trees where they might offer shade when grown. Better upkeep would raise its grade; meantime, worth a visit with younger kids if you're in the area, for the unusual mix of entertainments.
Overall rating: 7

Colorful but tired: DiSilvestro playground

Playground: DiSilvestro
Location: 15th and Morris
Date visited: 8/15/10

Equipment: Two zones, a few yards apart:
  • Tot zone has one playset, 3-4-foot platforms, some climbing (including steps and a "barrel stave" ladder), small arched bridge, and two metal slides. Also 4 bucket swings in this area.

  • Kid zone has 4-5-foot platform complex with fun mesh crawl tunnel, arched bridge, two metal slides of different heights, and several climbing and sliding poles. Also 4 strap swings here.
material: modern resin & metal; scale of space: med zone in smallish paved park.
Ages: 1-6
Surface: rubbery around equipment; blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: basketball courts, hopscotch and more blacktop, colorful small rec. center
Access: summer: 9am-10:30pm; winter: 2pm-10:30pm

Impressions: Colorful and inviting from a distance, but a little underinspired and under-maintained, plus metal slides with no shade mean it's hard to get the most from what is there. Nothing to pull you from any distance, although there's lots of space to kick a ball or practice skateboarding, and the neighborhood is pleasantly multiethnic and multinational.
Note: bubble tea and bahn mi (Vietnamese hoagies) available across the street.
Overall rating: 6

In need of some love: Dickinson Square playground

Playground: Dickinson Square park
Location: Between Morris and Tasker, 3rd and 4th
Date visited: 8/15/10

Equipment: Two formal play structures:
  • Smaller tot piece has a double plastic and single metal slide, various ladders and steps

  • Larger kid piece has a stretch of monky bars, a fireman's pole, single metal slide and spiral plastic slide.
There's also a free-standing metal piece here that may have been intended as a climbing object or as a sculpture, but is clearly being used as both; it's a challenging steep cone to climb, with rings at the top to hang onto/from. There are two areas that used to have swings: one has the metal frame but no swings or chains, and the other just has the rubbery surface and guard rails but no structure there at all.
material: weathered version of modern resin and metal; space: med play space in broader open park
Ages: 1-10
Surface: rubbery around equipment; blacktop and grass elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 3
Water: N
Other: Basketball courts, a padded loop (for bikes and skateboards?), grassy and paved areas, some sort of rec-center-ish building (Parson's Center)
Access: 6am-10pm (open park)

Impressions: Grassy neighborhood park has a small shady playground surrounded by a low stone wall, and lots of grassy space and benches. During our Sunday-noon visit, families and kids played with rubber balls and wagons on the basketball court, dug in some dirt, and gave it a happy feel that belied the worn equipment and missing swings. A place that deserves some repair and upkeep, especially since it's so prime for a picnic and play combination.
Overall rating: 5

Saturday, August 7, 2010

New and enticing: the renovated Mt. Airy playground

Playground: Mt. Airy playground
Location: On Sedgwick just north of Germantown Ave.
Date visited: 8/7/10

Equipment: Three zones of fun:
  • Tot zone (marked 2-5) has colorful plastic platforms, with a roofed area (including a bench), various climbing including a small "climbing wall," three slides (all metal), and a play table underneath. Also in this area is a 3-person riding toy like a modern low-risk blend of teeter-totter and hobby horse (on a spring), a small "sit and spin" seat, a set of musical chimes, and 4 bucket swings.

  • Older kid zone (marked 5-12) is 20 yards away and designed using "adventure-style" rope and plastic equipment a little like Franklin Square. Some parts of this are complicated ropey parts to challenge older kids, but a few of the lower structures include simpler elements like a suspended tire and a stable hanging chair that would be approachable to intrepid toddlers. There's another piece of equipment still being built here -- only the support poles were in place, so hard to say what it will be, but it's also marked for the older set. A brace of 6 strap swings completes this area.

  • A cement region close to the tot zone turns out to be a nice sprayground, including 4 or 5 water jets that send plumes out of the pavement with various degrees of force. As with many modern sprayparks, there's a waist-height pole here with a button that needs to be pressed every couple of minutes to keep the water coming, so don't be concerned if it's not on when you arrive -- it needs to be pushed with some force, however, so younger kids may need some help.
material: as describe above; scale: good-sized play area within large park
Ages: 1-12
Surface: rubbery under equipment; blacktop or cement elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y -- small sprayground
Other: picnic tables, baseball field, basketball courts, shaded porch on rec center, football team
Access: Nothing posted, but gate(s) can be closed

Impressions: Recently renovated cutting-edge playspace offers something for just about everybody and a wide range of ages. Inviting tot zone and space-age-looking clambering zone for older kids should prove a huge draw -- throw in the zone of water sprayers and some grass to run around in and it's worth a serious drive, but probably not on the hottest/sunniest days, given the almost complete absence of shade.
Bonus: it's right across the street from a big Acme, so easy to combine with some quick errands.
Overall rating: 10

Update (2/2013): Nothing has been done with the partially completed area. Did they run out of ideas? Decide the design was unsafe? (zip line plans, maybe?) not clear, but leaves an odd impression. Still, a generally fun playground, if just short of great for the highest ages.

First trip to the Northwest: Donald Rumph Rec. Center (= Carpenter Park = Mallery Playground)

Playground: Mallery Playground (?)
Location: On Johnson at Morton; second playground near Duval
Date visited: 8/7/10 (late Saturday morning)

Equipment: Two separate playgrounds:
  1. Tot lot right by recreation center has one small playset (low platforms) with several types of climbing, including the uncommon barrel-stave-type ladder, and two slides (1 metal and 1 plastic). Also in this zone is a "hobby horse" style bobbing elephant and a mysterious structure a little like an almost-horizontal slide caged with bars -- something for crawlers? for racing cars? a training jungle gym? A set of swings here includes 1 bucket (and brackets for another, missing) and 2 low strap swings.

  2. The bigger kid section would be easy to miss, as it's down some steps and around the other side of the rec. center. The play structure has higher platforms (4 and 6 feet) with a number of simple climbing elements and a single high (metal) slide, as well as a curvy stretch of classic monkey bars. Also in this area are a set of 4 strap swings and a freestanding structure that's an arched stretch of ladder (you could, say, climb up and over) about 7 feet high.
material: modern resin and metal; scale: one small and one medium play spaces in a larger park.
Ages: 1-4 and 3-8?
Surface: rubbery around equipment
Shade(0-3): 2 (both)
Water: N
Other: Large rec. center with lots of classes and other activities, ball field (and enough more grass for soccer, football, etc.), basketball courts
Access: open on several sides; no hours posted

Impressions: These widely separated zones are good for protecting toddlers from their rambunctious elders, but they make it hard for a parent to keep an eye on kids of different ages. Decent equipment, if a little uninspired and a little worn. Tot zone feels restful; field near the lower lot is fun for running around; both zones have decent shade. A nice spot if you live nearby, but nothing to make a special trip for.
Overall rating: 6-7

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shiny but headed for tarnish? Kingsessing Park

Playground: Kingsessing Park playground
Location: Kingsessing at 50th St.
Date visited: 8/1/10 (Sunday morning)

Equipment: Two playsets not too far apart:
  • Tot zone is a lower set of platforms (around 3 feet) including steps and low climbing bits, solid and jointed bridges (the latter daunted our 29-month-old), three slides (all metal), and small kid-height benches in a gazebo setting in the middle. Decent shade in this zone. Also a freestanding hobby horse.

  • Bigger kid zone has platforms around 6 feet. Neat sorts of climbing (as well as steps), a lon bridge, submarine-style climbing into the middle of one platform, straight and spiral slides (metal). Underneath the fun continues, with a "monkey bar" stretch of rings, little seats, and door/window for smaller kids. No shade over any of this equipment though.
There's also a row of swings that is between the two playsets, with 4 buckets and 4 straps (and also a stretch missing whatever it might have been intended to contain).
Ages: 1-9
Surface: rubbery
Shade(0-3): 2/0
Water: N
Other: ballfield, extra grassy field (football? soccer?), large brick rec. center (onetime school?), pool, basketball, tennis practice wall, tennis courts (with no nets), picnic tables, some blacktop/cement areas, a loop for small bikes or skateboards
Access: open access

Impressions: A location sandwiched between two large playing fields gives this park playground a nice feel, despite the hard-worn nearby houses and presence of blowing trash. Well-designed and creative equipment offer fun for a range of ages, with features to challenge or entertain. Shaded picnic tables and easy parking (and/or nearby trollies on Chester) are a plus, although the exposure of the swings is a bit hard for hot summer days. On net, the place is close to being a destination playground, but there are signs that the recent overhaul, funded by a federal grant, isn't being kept up -- missing nets on the tennis courts, broken bucket swings (2 out of 4), and the trash issues. I hope that somebody in the area will hold the Recreation Department to a better standard of behavior, but it's hard to know.
Overall rating: 8

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Two playgrounds in one: Comegys

Playground: 48th & Woodland Park/Comegys Sprayground
Location: between 47th & 48th, Woodland and Grey's Ferry (enter on 47th for playground, but gates on many sides)
Date visited: 8/1/10 (Sunday morning)

Equipment: Essentially two playgrounds: a standard one north of the rec. center, and a sprayground to the south (past the basketball courts). We could only visit the former and look longingly at the latter (will update if we get back):
  1. One multilevel playset with a low curved and high spiral slide (both plastic), lots of climbing, etc. (but no simple stairs for the youngest set). Modern resin + metal, but a little weathered. There's also a small "space ship" for climbing up into (ladder in the middle, can walk around the "pod" at 3-4 ft height). A set of swings nearby, with 3 straps and 4 buckets.

  2. Sprayground looks quite colorful and inventive, with taller poles appearing as palm trees and saguaro cactus, and large arches of metal evoking the possibility of a variety of sprays to run under. No grates for out-of-ground squirters, though, so perhaps not for tiny tots, and not even a hint of shelter from the sun. Nothing seen in action at the time of our visit.
Scale: 2 small sections of a large park.
Ages: equipment 2-7; water zone ??
Surface: playground, rubbery; sprayground, cement
Shade(0-3): playground 2; sprayground 0
Water: Y!
Other: basketball courts, baseball field, huge expanse of extra grass (soccer?), blacktop area, picnic tables
Access: park as a whole has long hours, but the sprayground has its own fence and hours: M-F, 1-6; Sat, 11-6 (closed Sun).

Impressions: The play equipment was clean and functional, the shade is nice, and the rec. center is covered in colorful art. But there's not much draw to the playground itself (and it didn't hold our toddler's attention for long) -- the magic in the colorful pipes of the sprayground. Will have to see later whether those are as fun in action as in repose...
Overall rating: 6

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A welcome retreat in West Philly: Clark Park playground

Playground: Clark Park
Location: 43rd & Chester (1 block south of Baltimore), SW corner
Date visited: 7/28/10 (late afternoon)

Equipment: Two zones within a few yards of each other:
  • Tot lot (marked 2-5 years) has two playsets: (1) good-sized standard playset, with two slides (both metal), a narrow solid bridge/walkway that would give toddlers a safe thrill of adventure, unusual kinds of climbing options, and under-set play zones (a crawl-through hole, "shop window," etc.); (2) a smaller, lower, dinosaur-shaped piece with low steps and climbing and two smaller (plastic) slides, as well as a crawl space/fort underneath. There are also 4 bucket swings in this zone.

  • Older kid area is also multi-level, with a range of challenges including 3 slides of different heights (all metal, 4-7 ft), a rope climbing net, a ring-based monkeybar stretch, a solid bridge, and a variety of spaces underneath (hole, bench, window, etc.). Also 3 strap swings and one chair swing in this zone.
material: modern resin & metal, plus rope wall; scale: large play area in extensive park.
Ages: 1-10 (12?)
Surface: rubbery throughout play areas
Shade(0-3): 2+
Water: N
Other: big grassy park with paths, picnic and play areas, basketball court, low stone wall; water ice cart and 2 semi-permanent porta-potties present on day of visit; occasional theatrical and musical events in the evenings
Access: unfenced

Impressions: A cheerful and neighborhoody playground, busy but not crowded, with colorful equipment in a pleasant open park full of mature trees -- the presence of additional green areas across the streets to east (a garden) and north (more park, including a cement climbing turtle) increase the feeling of expansiveness here. The equipment seems very well designed for a range of ages, and includes types of climbing in both zones that we hadn't seen before. Great for families with kids of many ages, and for combining play with a picnic or trip to a nearby cafe (I glimpsed patio tables a little farther up 43rd). Also happily multiethnic. Worth a trip!
Overall rating: 9

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Great for clambering but needs more: Sacks Playground

Playground: Sacks Playground
Location: 4th and Federal (entrance on corner)
Date visited: 7/25/10 (early Sunday morning)

Equipment: Two jungle gyms -- one short and fairly long, accessible by steps or various ladders/climbing walls, including a bridge but no slides (!); the other basically just a tall tower, accessible by two tall ladders and with a spiral slide. Shorter jungle gym also includes a cool racing car game (two cars run around a track when you turn a crank), but partially broken (only one car moves smoothly). Fairly large free-standing climbing wall, including low tunnels to crawl through. Low multi-tunnel crawling area. Two-foot high stone turtle with many footholds for climbing. 8-foot tall tower for climbing. Two strap swings.

Ages: 1-8 years
Surface: Rubberized foam throughout
Shade(0-3): 2
Water: No
Other: Public pool, large ball field, basketball courts, extra blacktop and grass; another large park across 4th Street
Access: Dawn to dusk? Fenced in, but gate open at 4th and Federal when visited at 7:30 AM on a Sunday, so presumably open most of the time?

Impressions: Appealing and novel set of equipment, with quite a few options for smaller children. Clean with a nice playing surface. Between the multiple climbing walls, tall climbing structure, usual ladders on jungle gyms, and tunnels and turtle, good clambering options for all ages. However, a glaring lack of slides -- the main jungle gym has none! -- you climb up and then need to climb back down. The one slide is only accessible by a pair of tall ladders, not good for younger children, at least not without assistance. It appears that there was once a connection between the two jungle gyms, which would explain the lack of slide for the one, but now there is a boarded-up circular hole at the end of each. Another glaring lack -- no bucket swings, and indeed only two strap swings. Overall, it feels like a pleasant environment that is in need of just a bit more development -- dealing somehow with the boarded-up ends of the jungle gym, for example. If that happened, this would be a very nice playground -- already it has a nice feel and an above-average variety of climbing possibilities.
Overall rating: 6 (higher than that in terms of feel and climbing options, but some glaring deficiencies in terms of slides and swings)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Small shady refuge: Gold Star Park

Playground: Gold Star Park
Location: On Wharton, between 6th & 7th (small interior streets)
Date visited: 7/18/10 (Sunday late morning)

Equipment: One small playset, including one slide (metal), a hanging bar, some crow's nests, and some climbing bits (including a "barrel roll" ladder). No swings or other equipment.
material: modern resin & metal; scale: small park with single playset area inside
Ages: 1-3
Surface: rubbery composite around playset
Shade(0-3): 3!
Water: N
Other: grassy areas, benches, blacktop, lots of shade, one large partly fenced blacktop that looks like a basketball court with no nets
Access: can't be closed, but posted 6am-10pm

Impressions: Feels like the old community parks of my youth -- mostly for shady picnics and "running around" -- except that about half of it is inexplicably paved. (It seems like a retired light pole could be repurposed for a basketball hoop, but perhaps that would make a peaceful space too noisy for the quiet townhouses on all sides.) Still, it was a real respite on a hot day, and our 29-month-old ran around with glee and rolled her ball in the grass.
Extras: There are apparently concerts in this park on Thursday nights in the summer. Also, a man sitting on a bench was surfing wifi; I forgot to ask whether it was free or filched...
Overall rating: 7 (for toddlers only)

Fun in the sun: Columbus Square

Playground: Columbus Square Recreation Center
Location: block bounded by Wharton & Reed, 12th & 13th -- enter on 12th for playgrounds
Date visited: 7/18/10 (Sunday morning)

Equipment: Two separate zones:
  • A tot zone is protected by a gated fence and some decorative plantings from the rest of the space. Its playset includes 2 slides (both metal), a solid bridge, stairs, and a good mix of simple ladders and a low rope ladder, all good for those learning to climb. Also 4 bucket swings here (a nice type with a higher back, that I haven't seen before), and the whole zone is covered with rubbery surfacing. No actual shade at 10:30, but low roofs over the playset ends made it feel a bit shady.

  • The bigger kid area has a multi-level play structure that includes 2 straight slides (4' and 6') and 1 twisty slide -- all metal -- lots of climbing bits, a crawl-through bridge tube (big enough for a toddler to walk through, bending down a bit), and an arched solid bridge; also, underneath, a few possible play spots for smaller kids like a crawl-through hole and and a "shop-window" ledge. The upper end of this structure was high enough to challenge (and even daunt) our 29-month-old adventurer. A little tricky for parents who like to get up on the playset with their kids too. Four strap swings finish out this zone.
material: modern resin & metal; scale: medium space in a larger park.
Ages: 1-4, 3-10, respectively?
Surface: rubbery around play spaces; brick elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y (not observed)
Other: ball field, rec. center, grassy area, dog park, extra paved space (for bikes and balls); also an interesting closed (round) building at the far end of the paved space.
Access: dawn to dusk?

Impressions: This appears to be a recently renovated space, with a modernist rec. building, lots of colorful plantings, and nice equipment that offers a range of play for many ages -- it's not huge, but it's well chosen and designed. Lack of shade made our visit a bit brutal in summer heat, but it's probably a great spot in most seasons, especially for families with kids in a range of ages. (Note that the Christopher Columbus Charter School is right nearby, which may mean some daytime or afterschool traffic in spring and fall.) Will be nice when the tiny trees have matured in another decade or so. We'll definitely be back on a cooler day!
Overall rating: 8

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Shady but trash-strewn: Cruz Rec Center park

Playground: Cruz Rec. Center
Location: whole city block between 5th-6th, Jefferson-Master (couple blocks north of Girard) -- one playground each in NW and SE corners
Date visited: 6/20/10 (Sunday morning)

Equipment: There are two playgrounds here, separated by a ball field:
  1. Little kid zone is in SE corner (enter at 5th & Master). The main playset has a good mix of steps and climbing equipment, as well as 3 slides (2 metal, straight, 1 plastic, curved) and an arched bridge --- better than average for equipment aimed at littler kids. There is also one old-school freestanding metal slide (maybe 5 feet tall, so ok for toddlers) and a "space capsule" that allows small kids to climb an interior ladder into a curved metal basin that a toddler can stand up in (all about 2 feet off the ground). Four bucket swings and a heap of parent benches complete this zone.
  2. Older kid zone is in the NW corner (gate on Jefferson). There's an old-fashioned metal jungle gym (metal triangles forming a half-sphere), that requires pretty long legs to get onto. Also a more modern playset with lots of things to climb, a fireman's pole, and a single slide (metal, pretty steep). This set was a little beyond the grasp of our 28-month-old, but it might not offer much variety/challenge to actual Big Kids. (The wealth of open space in this park might or might not compensate.) Four strap swings here too.
material: weathered metal/resin (except as noted above), with some graffitti; scale: two medium spaces in a large multipurpose outdoor area
Ages: 1-3, 5-10, respectively?
Surface: rubbery around equipment, blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 2 (great on toddler playset)
Water: N
Other: large basketball court area, baseball field, extra grassy areas; rec. center has a fenced pool
Access: open (=dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: This large park has a nice range of offerings and runaround spaces, and an unusually good set of mature trees made it feel like a respite on a hot day -- probably a great local resource. However, the park had serious trash issues (not so much glass shards as lots of soda bottles and other containers) and a handful of Old Guys hanging around even on a hot Sunday morning, so it needs a little attention to bring it up to the realm of destination. Still, better than average for a summer day with the toddler set. No idea whether it sees any extra traffic when the school across the street is in session.
Overall rating: 7 (toddler area, 8; older kids, 6)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hope to be posting here soon!

You'd think that if we were visiting playgrounds in December, we'd be well underway in June, but our daughter has gotten a little shy about Big Kids, and we've gotten a little crushed by spring obligations. Have identified our next targets, so hopefully some updates in the next couple of weeks!