Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fun but a little exposed: Gathers Rec. Center playground

Playground: Hank Gathers, Jr., playground
Location: Diamond at Glenwood (near 25th)
Date visited: 8/6/11

Equipment: One zone containing several pieces:
  • The lower playset is very low, with a wide straight and a curved plastic slide, tic-tac-toe

  • The higher playset has 4-6-foot platforms, a long straight metal slide, misc. climbing, and a fireman's pole.

  • 4 bucket and 4 strap swings

  • A water sprayer zone (single tall pole, not on at visit)
material: modern resin/metal; scale: medium space
Ages: 1-8
Surface: rubbery/blacktop
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y
Other: basketball, grassy areas, pool, ball field, blacktop, rec. center
Access: not posted

Impressions: Decent set of offerings in a pleasant setting, but very short on shade; some recently planted trees may help in a few years (if they get enough water to get established). Equipment is weathered but not graffittied or broken. Good for a range of ages, but not best callenges for the older set. Note: water ice and ribs both available across the street!
Overall rating: 7

A pleasant gateway to the Park: Mander playground

Playground: Mander Playground
Location: on 33rd at Diamond
Date visited: 8/6/11

Equipment: Three main sections:
  1. A playset with 4-5-foot platforms, misc. climbing, a straight metal slide, monkey bars, and a curved plastic slide. Also 4 strap swings in this area.

  2. A pair of cement seals = crossed water sprayers.

  3. A playset with 3-4-foot platforms, a solid bridge, lower climbing, and two metal slides (one low and curved and one straight and wide). Set of 4 bucket swings here (1 missing).
material: modern resin/metal; scale: large space
Ages: 1-6
Surface: rubbery around equipment; blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: Y
Other: picnic tables, basketball court, large ball field (baseball and soccer), muraled rec. center, tennis, pool (full at visit), extra blacktop... transitions into the fields of Fairmount Park.
Access: no gates (presumably dawn to dusk)

Impressions: Large playground connected to an extensive park recreation zone (that shades into the fields of Fairmount Park). Colorful and busy, but the playsets are pretty low and lacking in challenges/fun for older kids (other than one stretch of monkey bars). Easy to combine with the pool, a picnic, or any other Park-friendly activity.
Overall rating: 7

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Piccoli: Nice Juniata playground with a wading pool bonus

Playground: Piccoli
Location: Cayuga St. and Castor Ave.
Date visited: 8/4/11
  • Little-kid play area in its own fenced-in area. Includes smallish platform-style playset with steps and 2 ladders (including a bigger-than-average quarter-barrel), "spaceship" with central ladder entry, free-standing tall metal turning slide that gave a particularly good ride, a bucket swing (1 missing), and 2 non-functioning "hobby horses" (too stiff)
  • Bigger-kid play area (smallish): platform-style with 3 ladders, 2 slides (metal straight, plastic turning-style), and a set of monkey bars. Nearby are 8 (!) strap swings
  • In between the two play areas is a large sprinkler/6-inch-deep wading pool (20-foot wide pool with a central sprinkler pole and one seal sprayer on the edge (another was broken)).
Ages:1-1/2 to 8 years
Surface: rubberized (worn) around play areas
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y (sprinkler/wading pool)
Other: Rec center, pool, baseball field
Access: rec center hours = 9 AM-10:30 PM in summer, 2-10:30 PM otherwise.

Impressions: Nice spread-out zone, and the wading pool is a big plus (though I might be biased by the fact that my daughter was super-into rollicking in shallow water on the day we visited). Equipment is a bit worn but fine -- nothing particularly novel, but good standard equipment (somewhat better offerings for smaller kids than bigger kids).
Overall rating: 7

Ferko: Quite extensive playground in a massive park in Juniata

Playground: Ferko playground and sprayground
Location: Cayuga St. and J St.
Date visited: 8/4/11
  • Big rambly platform-style playset with multiple stations connected by bridges (or, in one case, raised stepping stools). Lots of ladders (maybe 8?), including two "submarine-style" where you climb up through a 360-degree ladder to a platform above and a few other novel types (including one that twists 180-degrees along its length). Has 1 tall turning slide and 3 small slides, and a set of monkey-bar loops that follows a quarter-circle bend.
  • Swings in a separate zone -- 3 strap swings and 2 bucket swings (1 seemed broken)
Ages: 1-1/2 to 9 years old
Surface: rubberized around play area
Shade(0-3): 2
Water: Y (colorful sprayground)
Other: Rec center, tree-filled park, ballfield, sprayground (not on when visited at 11:30 AM on a summer Thursday)
Access: surrounded by low fence, but probably open at all times (though presumably only dawn-to-dusk allowed).

Impressions: The playground in the middle of a very large park zone (at least 6 blocks long) and that plus the effect of the multiple stations in the play equipment makes for very good aesthetics. The equipment itself is pretty extensive with a few novel features, but is showing quite a lot of wear. The sprayground seems quite new and is a major plus when it's on (it wasn't when we visited).
Overall rating: 8

Simpson playground: Aesthetically appealing corner of Frankford, with particularly good play options for littler kids

Playground: Simpson
Location: Arrott St. at Northwood St. (near Castor Ave.)
Date visited: 8/4/11
  • Playset for smaller kids (large): platform-style with a long bridge, 4 ladders, 2 slides. Also in the smaller-kid zone is a dolphin "hobby horse" that actually works (a rarity) and 4 bucket swings
  • Playset for bigger kids (small): platform-style with steps, 3 ladders, a long metal slide, and a firepole. 2 strap swings nearby
Ages: 1-8
Surface: rubberized around play equipment
Shade(0-3): 1 (just a bit on the fringe of each zone)
Water: Sort of/maybe (there is a pool nearby, and also a sprinkler pole in the center of a 10-foot wide circular pool (6 inches deep) that was full when visited, but I couldn't tell if it was rainwater or from recent use, nor if the drain was just clogged)
Other: rec center, pool, basketball court, baseball field, park across the street
Access: rec center hours (9 AM-10:30 PM in summer, 2-10:30 PM otherwise)

Impressions: Very pleasant setting with the two play areas wrapped around the rec center, surrounded by other large open areas, especially the tree-filled park across the (fairly busy) street. Equipment is in decent shape (though some graffiti and wear to the rubberized ground-surface): nothing superlative, but a solid set of options, especially for little kids. Bigger kids might find the play options limited, but maybe they'd be in the pool while their smaller siblings took advantage of the playground?
Overall rating: 7 (probably an 8 for smaller kids)

Deni playground: Decent but minimal option in Frankford

Playground: Deni
Location: Leiper & Church (also an entrance on Leiper and Ruan)
Date visited: 8/4/11
  • Playset for smaller kids (on the small side): platform-style, with 3 ladders and 2 slides
  • Playset for bigger kids: platform-style, with 4 ladders and 1 metal slide (with many dents), plus a fire pole and a slightly slanted 6-foot climbing wall
  • 2 bucket swings, 4 strap swings
Ages: 1-1/2 to 8 yrs
Surface: rubberized in playzones
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: No
Other: 6 basketball courts (with a sloped side), baseball field
Access: Unclear -- the whole zone is surrounded by high fences, with gates on two sides that could be locked. Didn't see posted hours -- was open at 10:30 AM on a summer Wednesday

Impressions: Playsets are on the minimal side, and showing some wear. The overall location is a fairly appealing open space, though more concrete than foliage (except for the baseball field). The basketball courts seem to have been refurbished fairly recently: new paint on the courts, nice lights for night play. The playground could use similar love.
Overall rating: 6

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Snaking through the neighborhood: West Mill Creek playground

Playground: West Mill Creek rec. center
Location: at 51st on Parrish (which dead-ends into it from east and west)
Date visited: 7/24/11

Equipment: Several pieces:
  • Low playset with various climbing (including a ladder of steps), jointed bridge, double metal slide

  • High playset with miscellaneous climbing, including two submarine-style central ladders, a jointed bridge, spiral metal slide, curve of monkey bar rings, two low and one medium metal slides, and a balance platform (also something missing -- a bridge? -- leaving one low platform stranded/pointless nearby)

  • Smallest playset has solid bridge and curved plastic slide (along with climbing)

  • Tons of swings (6 strap and 6 bucket), several broken, most wrapped around pole
All modern equipment, relatively compact, although there is a water zone SE of the main playground (circular cement area with sprayer pole) and other rec. zones N and S
Ages: 1-9?
Surface: rubbery around equip; blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y (beyond main playground)
Other: little rec. building, square picnic tables, ball field, basketball
Access: 9am-10:30p (2-10:30 winter)

Impressions: Charming nook playground and recreation space winds its way in a gap between dead-end/turnaround streets. Lots of offerings, some creative, but appears poorly looked after -- no graffitti or trash, but tangled swings and understaffed rec. center (a local asked me how to get somebody to turn the water feature on during the heat wave!) makes this less useful for neighbors than it otherwise would be. Still, it speaks well for the creativity of the Parks Department to find such narrow holes in residential zones to turn into fun outlets for kids.
Overall rating: 7

Some shade for tots: Mill Creek playground

Playground: Mill Creek rec. center
Location: Brown & 47th (SW corner)
Date visited: 7/24/11

Equipment: Three zones:
  1. Large playset with medium height monkey bars (curved upward! ack!), a solid bridge, misc. climbing, and 2 tall straight metal slides. Also here a freestanding old-fashioned metal jungle gym piece and space for several strap swings (none present), and some additional blacktop.

  2. Smaller kid zone, fenced: a low playset with a wide metal slide, barrel slat-style climbing, a low hanging bar, etc. Also two bucket swings in this area.

  3. Water zone between the others (but closer to the tot zone) -- cement circle ringed with cement benches, one central dandelion-shaped sprayer (not yet on at time of visit).
material: modern resin/metal; scale: med. playspace in a larger recreation zone
Ages: 1-9
Surface: rubbery around equipment; blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 1 (smaller kids zone + water)
Water: Y
Other: pool (full: free swim 2-5, family swim 6-7; overall 11-7 weekdays and 1-6 weekends), basketball, large grassy/baseball field, colorful rec. center, small square cement tables with chairs
Access: summer 9:00am-10:30pm; winter 2p-10:30p

Impressions: Decent equipment in the setting of a pleasant rec. center and lot. No obvious graffitti or trash issues, but the missing strap swings speak to some level of neglect or abuse. Nicely shaded tot zone and promising water feature (also mostly shaded, a rarity). Also nice to see a full pool for a change!
Overall rating: 6

Two play lots among three towers: Lee Park complex

Playground: Lee Park playground(s)
Location: from Powelton, take Holden and loop behind towers (to right) on unnamed road to parking right near playground
Date visited: 7/24/11

Equipment: Two small fenced playgrounds, in sight of one another:
  • Higher playset, colorful -- 4 plastic slides of various heights (1 curved, 1 spiral), monkeybar rings (2 sets), two longish tunnel bridges, various climbing including a metal rope net, shop window underneath, and ball bearing toy.

  • Smaller playset -- 1 set of double straight plastic slides and one single, tunnel bridge, ball bearing toy, climb-through hoops underneath, some simple climbing
material: modern resin/metal/plastic; scale: small play spaces in larger area of grass and walkways
Ages: 1-10 (larger), 1-4 (smaller)
Surface: rubbery throughout
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: lots of grassy areas with shade, tennis (without nets); also nearby Drexel sports complex
Access: open (dawn to desk)

Impressions: Loose trash is blowing throughout this extensive housing complex (three tall towers), but the two playgrounds offer a colorful and inviting outlet for kids. Overall offerings a little slim, and lack of swings seems a major oversight, but the tunnel bridges are unusual and nice for both bigger kids and for crawlers.
Overall rating: 6