Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Friendly but shadeless: Nelson playground

Playground: Nelson
Location: Cumberland between 3rd and 4th (gates on several sides)
Date visited: 6/18/11

Equipment: Several zones jumbled together:
  • A large and cheerful cement "ship" set into the ground with platforms and rails to climb about on
  • A water area = sunken square of cement with a pole for spray (off at visit)
  • 4 bucket and 4 strap swings
  • Taller play structure has several kinds of climbing, 1 tall metal slide, and monkey bars
  • Smaller play structure has miscellanious climbing, 1 straight metal slide
One corner of the lot is given over to community gardens that are apparently run by students
Ages: 1-9?
Surface: rubbery/blacktop
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: Y
Other: picnic tables (full size, and mini/kid size under a missing roof), basketball, rec. center with covered area, mural, and bike rack
Access: 6am-10pm listed

Impressions: Lack of shade is a problem here, but for a smallish park the offerings are good in variety, and the shady tables seem welcoming for a family outing. A small amount of wear and graffitti, but beter off than others nearby (no trash, and a team was whacking weeds during our weekend visit). The cement ocean liner seems like a draw for groups of kids with a creative bent.
Overall rating: 6-7

Doing a fair amount with a small space: Waterloo Playground

Playground: Waterloo Playground
Location: on Howard between Cumberland and Huntington (playground is close to Cumberland)
Date visited: 6/18/11

Equipment: Two zones, on separate sides of the rec. center building:
  1. Large playset has 5-6-foot platforms with many types of climbing and one straight metal slide, fireman pole, etc. A set of 4 strap swings is nearby.

  2. Smaller playset has 3-4-foot platforms, a solid bridge, one straight metal slide, and several kinds of climbing. 4 bucket swings and 2 hobby horses (pelican and jet; they actually move!) nearby.
Material: modern resin & metal; scale: smallish spaces in med. recreation space
Ages: 1-7
Surface: rubbery/blacktop
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: N
Other: pool (empty at time of visit, but a neighbor said it would open the 2nd week in July), basketball, lots of extra blacktop (painted for hopscotch and more), grassy area nearby with picnic table, small rec. building with many coats of anti-graffitti spraypaint
Access: ?

Impressions: Playground and recreation space wound into the inside of a block -- play spaces for younger and older kids are separated, making it hard for a parent to keep watch on both, but in decent shape and well contained (if you overlook some trash). A little short on variety (few slides, no hanging, etc.) and clearly under continual graffitti assault.
Overall rating: 6

Well-intentioned but poorly upkept: Norris Square Park playground

Playground: Norris Square Park
Location: Park is a full city block between Hancock and Howard, Diamond and Susquehanna; playground is in the middle.
Date visited: 6/18/11

Equipment: Two swingsets, with a total of four strap and four bucket swings. Additionally two playsets close together:
  1. A large play structure with lots of climbing, curved and spiral plastic slides, one solid and one jointed bridge, monkey bars (both straight and a curved stretch of hanging rings that make up another set), a zip line (with no pully/ring), and a chain "rope net" for climbing. Also benches, store window, and other stuff for littler kids underneath.

  2. Lower playset that is just steps up to a platform (!) -- slide or something else is gone and boarded over.
material: weathered "modern resin and metal"; scale of space: medium in larger park
Ages: 2-10
Surface: rubbery around equipment; blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: lots of grassy areas, some blacktop area (good for skateboards or bikes), low/broad circular bench around play area looks fun to walk along, gazebo area with stone picnic tables, cheerfully muralled shed; basketball across park
Access: open (= dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: Well-designed but brutally worn playground in the (shadeless) center of a grassy park that offers pleasant shade but quite a bit of trash and graffitti. The equipment could use some love, especially additions to the smaller structure to give it some purpose and make the place more welcoming to younger visitors. Good for climbers, but feels a little bleak.
Overall rating: 6

Thursday, June 16, 2011

In need of an upgrade: Conestoga playground

Playground: Conestoga
Location: Media St. and 53rd St.
Date visited: Jun. 12, 2011
  • Very minimal small kids' zone: tiny "spaceship" (can crawl into but ridiculously low), old free-standing metal slide, 1 bucket swing
  • Big kids' zone -- platform-style playset with stairs, 4 ladders, 2 fire poles, and a pretty big metal slide (note, however, that at the top of the slide, there's a big dropoff with no guardrail), plus an old semicircular climbing apparatus, and 2 strap swings
Ages: 2-6
Surface: rubberized by play areas
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: No
Other: Basketball court, playing field (football while we were there), rec center
Access: Unknown
Impressions: Sorely in need of an upgrade, especially the small kids' zone, which has very little in it and is very rundown. (I'll grant that things weren't helped by the fact that we visited just after a rainy day, so there were big moldy puddles on and near the slide.) The big kids' zone is fine -- routine equipment in OK shape. Some efforts seem to have been made to improve the feel of the space -- like a Sesame St. mural on the rec center -- but this site could really use a bigger-scale effort, either by the city or a philanthropic organization.

Overall rating: 4

Schoolyard climbing gem: Edward Heston School

Playground: Edward Heston Elementary School
Location: Lancaster between 52nd and 54th (also an entrance on Lansdowne)
Date visited: Jun. 12, 2011

  • Small kids' zone -- cute but very small, just stairs, a ladder, and 2 slides
  • Big kids' zone -- Brightly decorated/gabled platform-style playset with 2 ladders (a coil ladder and a step ladder), 3 slides (1 turning), a jointed bridge, a U-shaped ladder bridge, and monkey bars. Also a sizable climbing wall (maybe 6 feet tall?), and a tie line.
Ages: 1-10
Surface: rubberized -- very sandy on the day visited, for no obvious reason
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: No
Other: Schoolyard with three basketball hoops
Access:Unknown. There are gates that could presumably be locked outside of school hours, though all were open when we visited on a Sunday morning.

Impressions: Small kids' zone is minimal -- not worth an independent visit (and, honestly, doesn't really seem sufficient for the kids in the school). In contrast, the big kids' zone is quite nice, with lots of novel climbing options in particular (the U-shaped ladder, climbing wall, monkey bars, tie line). Location is not so aesthetic given that it's right on Lancaster, though the big playset is brightly decorated and the school has attractive and huge murals.
Overall rating: 7

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reliable standard in Overbrook: Baker playground

Playground: Baker
Location: Lansdowne & Conestoga (enter on Lansdowne -- there's also an entrance on Hunter, on the north side of the block)
Date visited: 6/12/11
  • Small kids' zone: platform-style playset with 2 ladders (coil and quarter circle) and 3 slides; this zone also has 2 hobby horses, turtle statue for climbing, spinning cup, and 4 strap swings (1 deformed)
  • Big kids' zone: platform-style playset with 4 ladders, 2 slides, jointed bridge, firepole, and monkey bars; zone also includes 4 strap swings
Ages: 1-8
Surface: rubberized around play area
Shade(0-3): 0 (maybe a little in small kids' zone)
Water: No
Other: Rec center, swimming pool (seemed abandoned when visited on a Sunday in June), basketball court
Access: Posted rec dept hours: 9 AM-10:30 PM in summer, 2-10:30 PM otherwise

Impressions: Reasonable range of equipment, but some sense of age and disrepair in the big-kid zone (it doesn't help aesthetically that the gazebo at the center of the playground has a collapsing roof, nor to see the swimming pool filled with plant matter rather than water). The small kids' zone does have a few nice extras.

Overall rating: 6

Halfway toward renewal: Miles Mack

Playground: Miles Mack
Location: 36th & Aspen
Date visited: Jun. 11, 2011

  • Newer zone -- platforms, bumpy ramp, 3 ladders, 2 slides (1 turning), "deli counter", curvy bridge, 2 bucket swings, 4 strap swings
  • Older zone -- 2 ladders, 2 slides, monkey bars, fire pole, two metal climbing appartus (one is two perpendicular semicircles, the other a tall tower of metal bars); this zone also has an abandoned swingset (with no remaining swings)
Ages: 1 1/2 to 7 years old
Surface: rubberized squares around playsets
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Yes -- circular zone with a spraying pole
Other: rec center, basketball court, baseball field
Access: Posted rec dept hours 9 AM-10:30 PM summer, 2-10:30 PM otherwise

Impressions: Older zone is minimal and rundown. Newer zone is pretty nice, but really only for smaller kids. Overall, the space is fairly large, but a bit bleak/underdeveloped. A nice spot for some future development by the city or others.
Overall rating: 6

Gem just around the corner from the zoo: Clemens & Lewis

Playground: Clemens & Lewis
Location: 38th & Poplar (just South of Girard)
Date visited: Jun. 11, 2011

  • Small kids' zone features a fire truck playset (low hanging bars, clambering tires, slide, and a raised platform), as well as 4 bucket swings, 2 hobby horses (1 of which actually worked, unlike most we've seen), and a longish low tunnel
  • Big kids' zone included a large playset (many ladders, several bridges, 3 slides--including 1 turning slide--2 "ladder bridges", climbing wall, and loop monkey bars), 2 1-person "spinners" mounted on the ground, and 4 strap swings
Ages: 1-10
Surface: rubberized by play areas
Shade(0-3): 1 (only on bigger kids' playset)
Water: Y? broken-looking dragon sprayer
Other: 4 small picnic tables, basketball court, lots of bike-riding space (including sloped wall behind basketball court), rec center
Access: Posted Rec Dept hours: 9 AM- 10:30 PM summer, 2-10:30 PM otherwise

Impressions: A bit rundown/weedy, but equipment is in good shape. The small kids' zone is not extensive, but the fire truck is a nice apparatus (may be slightly biased by the fact that our child is currently obsessed with low monkey bars). Big kids' zone is quite large with a fun range of equipment. Setting is not too scenic -- up against train tracks, and the particular block you can see from the playground is a bit rundown, but it's a cozy small neighborhood tucked among the train tracks, Rte. 76, and the zoo.
Overall rating: 8-9