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