Friday, September 7, 2012

Things to do and watch: Carmella

Playground: Carmella
Location: Wakeling between Torresdale and Worth
Date visited: 9/1/12

Equipment: A couple of zones, within sight of each other:
  • Smaller playset has two solid bridges, 2 straight and 1 spiral slide (all plastic), misc. climbing. There's also a firetruck-shaped climbing toy with a small metal slide and miniature monkey bars.
  • The bigger playset has several tube ladders, multilevel platforms, a winding stretch of monkey bars, a wide straight metal slide, spiral plastic slide, and a "bottomless" bar slide (slightly out of shape). Also a set of swings here, 4 bucket and 4 strap.
  • A colorful circle contains several large metal elephants that spray water, on during our visit.
Ages: 1-9
Surface: rubbery/cement
Shade(0-3): 1 (small), 0 (large)
Water: Y
Other: large grassy field (probably several baseball and football grids), basketball, rec. center, skateboard park
Access: open (dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: Nice large open space, if not super-aesthetic. Skate-park (watchable from the shade) and elephant sprayers are particularly nice bonuses. Equipment not in super shape (anti-graffitti blue), but a nice range of offerings.
Overall rating: 7

All the bells and whistles: Gambrel recreation complex

Playground: Billy Gambrel playground
Location: Jackson just west of Wakeling
Date visited: 9/1/12

Equipment: One large playspace, but divisible into three recognizable zones:
  1. Smaller playset has low monkeybars (woot!), miscellaneous climbing, and two medium straight and one taller straight slides (all metal). Also two bucket and four strap swings here, and a 4-seat hobbyhorse-style teeter-totter toy. Also two sets of (curved) hanging bars that spin.
  2. Larger playset area has a standard-ish playset and a super-modern-looking section; every possible variant of challenging monkey bars is represented here -- single rings in long sequences, angled spinning horizontal rings, multiple tracks joining at rounded hubs... Also here are some wobbling hanging platforms (with poles) to step along, and a "balance beam" also mounted on springs, a chain "rope climbing net," and three tall metal slides (2 straight and one spiral).
  3. Large modern sprayground with numerous sprayers coming from the ground around a group of elegant sculptural elements (that may or may not generate water themselves). There are hand switches here, but they didn't seem necessary for full activation when we were there.
Ages: 1-12 (+)
Surface: rubbery/cement
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y
Other: football field, baseball fields, basketball, rec. center, some extra grassy areas
Access: 6am-10pm?

Impressions: A welcoming and creative mix of play options for any age, but, rare among city playgrounds, really offering the best challenges for the 8-14 (?) set, with challenging balance and swinging ring zones, wobbly paths to walk, etc. The water came on while we were there (around noon on Saturday) and kept us longer than we otherwise would have stayed, given the lack of shade (despite an extensive pergola, which I guess needs plants). Some loose trash, but not enough to spoil the fun; lack of swings a notable exception to an otherwise fun mix of things. Overall, worth a trip.
Overall rating: 9-10

A variety of play options: Monkiewicz Rec. Center

Playground: Monkiewicz
Location: On Alleghany at I-95/Richmond
Date visited: 8/18/12

Equipment: Two zones on opposite sides of the rec. center building:
  1. Fenced zone for younger kids, including (a) four bucket swings, (b) two hobby horses (stiff, as usual), (c) medium height "space pods" connected by a bridge, (d) a low playset with miscellaneous climbing, a solid bridge, straight metal and curved plastic slides; there is also a circular water feature here with colorful painted ocean scenes and four sprayers, but it was not on during our visit.
  2. The other zone includes (a) an older style jungle gym (a horizontal half-cylinder with misc. ladder elements), (b) room for four strap swings, all missing, (c) a tall playset including spiral plastic slides, monkey bars, and tall climbing.
Ages: 1-10
Surface: rubbery/cement/blacktop
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y?
Other: tennis, some grass, bike rack, pool, rec. center, basketball, fenced rink (= hockey? soccer?), baseball fields, brick playspace
Access: unmarked

Impressions: Decent offerings, but cut off from residential neighborhoods by busy streets on three sides, which explains its slightly underloved feel (especially the missing swings). Nice to have a huge grassy space for kicking a ball, a rarity throughout the city.
Overall rating: 6

Fun for the younger set: Frank Glavin playground

Playground: Frank Glavin
Location: On Westmoreland between Almond and Mercer
Date visited: 8/12/12

Equipment: Two zones:
  • The smaller kid zone has (a) two very low "space pods" connected by a solid bridge/tunnel; (b) a low playset including straight metal and curved plastic slides, 3-foot platforms, miscellaneous climbing (including the beginner-friendly "barrel stave" style), and a store front underneath; and (c) four bucket swings. Also in this area are a pair of seals that look like they should be water sprayers, although they were not on during our visit (1:30pm on Saturday).
  • Bigger kid zone has a taller playset with a straight metal slide, curved monkey bars, and lots of climbing. Also six strap swings in this area.
Ages: 1-10
Surface: rubbery around equipment; blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y?
Other: basketball, extra blacktop with painted games, rec. center
Access: 6am-10pm

Impressions: Friendly neighborhood playground offers decent equipment for a range of ages, although in practice it will appeal most to the younger set (say, 2-6) due to the enticing options in the smaller zone. Hot on a summer sunny day with no shade and metal slides, but could be fun with the water turned on...
Pro: Both the Mercer Cafe and the Aramingo Diner are close by for brunch/lunchtime options.
Overall rating: 7

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Making the most of a fork in the road: Cedar Park playground

Playground: Cedar Park playground
Location: Baltimore Ave. @ 50th St. (triangular island where Baltimore and Catherine veer apart; parking seemed easiest on Catherine)
Date visited: May 28, 2012

  • Low monkey-bars (not quite low enough for a 4-yr old but close; chin-height for a short mom)
  • Three spinning seats
  • One playset with miscellaneous climbing (including a small climbing wall), two medium slides (each straight metal), bench and "shop window"/step under, low and high hanging bars
  • modern purple "teeter-totter arch" (some challenge for bigger kids)
Ages: 1-10
Surface: rubbery/cement, grass
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: N
Other: Several long walls (2 ft high) -- great for walking along; shady grassy areas, 2 chess tables, lunch truck (at least when we visited), trolley-watching
Access: Open

Impressions: Brand new, cute playground in a little park in a little park that's really a glorified traffic triangle, offers pleasant settings for a family outing.  Mostly aimed at the younger set (who in fact seem to make up the bulk of real-world use) but a nice variety, although metal slides will get hot in summer.  Pleasant breezes and neighborhood-y feel for a picnic in the grass.  Lack of swings is perplexing!
Overall rating: 8

Cute rambly zone on the edge of Cobbs Creek Park: Papa playground

Playground: Papa Playground
Location: 68th & Landsdowne
Date visited: May 19, 2012

  • Medium playset with hanging rings, bounce/balance pad, crawl-through hoop and tube, two slides (double straight, tall spiral), fireman's pole, shop window
  • 4 strap swings
  • tot lot with micro-playset (steps and a small plastic slide), telescope, bus wheel, teeter-totter (works well!), hobby horse (semi-broken), 4 swings (2 strap, 2 strap)
  • little hills between two zones to clamber up and down
Ages: 0-8
Surface: rubbery/chips/grass
Shade(0-3): 2
Water: N
Other: football field, baseball field, extra grassy areas, rec center, water ice shop across the street
Access: Open, but presumably subject to standard rec center hours

Impressions: A cute little playspot in the midst of grassy parks and busy ball fields.  Good for a little recharge, or a quiet outing with picnic possibilities and water ice/ice cream across the street.  Not extensive, but decent variety of stuff and what's there is nice.
Overall rating: 8

Monday, May 28, 2012

A gem way out West: Rose Recreation Center

Playground: Rose Recreation Center
Location: 75th & Lansdowne (park on 75th @ base of hill/path just past bus stop, even though not marked as OK -- otherwise you need to park a block or two away)
Date visited: 5/19/12

  • Small-kids' zone has 4-person teeter-totter, 4 bucket swings, a low ribbon climbing wall, mixed climbing, double wavy plastic slides, a lower straight metal slide, toddler-height monkey bars, and a periscope
  • Big-kids' zone has 4 strap swings, a tall "spaceship" climbing zone, a large playset with rope climbing net, miscellaneous climbing, solid (open) bridge, and two slides (one medium straight metal, one high plastic spiral); and a novel spinning zone, with two spinning platforms with spinning hanging "bars" overhead for mixed stand/hang dizziness.
Ages: 1-10
Surface: rubbery/woodchips/grass
Shade(0-3): 1 for small kids' zone, 3 for big kids' zone
Water: N
Other: grassy hill, rec center, two basketball courts (one maybe just for leagues, as no nets mounted on visit and seemed fancier), baseball field
Access: open

Impressions: This playground is walkable from nearby neighborhoods but hard to park near (at least until you know the locals' trick to park in the unmarked spots just after the bus stop on 75th).  However, despite proximity to large busy roads, it feels pleasantly woodsy, and even on a hot day the larger-kid area is shady and cool.  There's a nice mix of classic and modern play offerings, and lots of grass for picnic possibilities.  The only complaint we had is that it could use more attentive trash pick-up service!
Overall rating: 9

An extensive resource in the far West: Granahan playground

Playground: Granahan Playground
Location: Callowhill St. @ 65th and Daggett
Date visited: 5/19/12

  • Small-kids' playset with miscellaneous climbing, a single small platform, and a double straight metal slide
  • Huge big-kids' playset with three bridges (one solid straight, one solid curved, one jointed), five metal slides (3 low & straight, 2 high and spiral), monkey bars, metal "rope net", low hanging rings, balance platform, fireman's pole, lots of ladder types (including several "submarine style" into center of platform
  • Swings (4 buckets and space for 4 strap swings, though none present)
  • Single-pole water sprayer
Ages: 1-12
Surface: rubbery/blacktop
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y
Other: basketball court with no hoops, roller hockey rink with lots of missing boards, rec center building
Access: probably standard rec center hours

Impressions: The large playset here is pretty neat, especially for climbers who like new challenges and for groups to make up games around, but the rec space as a whole is embarrassingly in need of repair or revitalization, which makes it seem less nice than it might be...
Overall rating: 6-7

A local tot lot in Powelton Village

Playground: PEC tot-lot
Location: Corner of Budd & Powelton
Date visited: 5/28/12

  • Three hobby horses, all of which work (a miracle in a city oddly full of ultra-rigid hobby horses)
  • One small playset, with two slides (low and medium heights, both plastic), fireman's pole, miscellaneous climbing, broken tic-tac-toe
  • Broken teeter-totter
Ages: 1-5
Surface: rubber/cement/grass
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: picnic tables
Access: probably 24/7

Impressions: A little neighborhood playground -- feels like a neighborhood reclamation project, and indeed, a Google search reveals that the People's Emergency Center (a local community development group) helped build it some time ago.  The playground is a nice snack for a smaller tot, and a nice bonus for the local neighborhood, but isn't much to hold anybody's attention for long, and could use a significant amount of upkeep (and a swingset, ideally...). Overall rating: 5

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The most fun playground you'll never visit: Deritis

Playground: Deritis Playground
Location: Gray's Ave at Frazier
Date visited: 4/28/12

Equipment: Several pieces in close proximity:
  • A pair of little old-fashioned "space-ship" pods to climb up into, connected by an enclosed ramp for crawling.
  • A low playset with a straight metal and a curved plastic slide
  • Larger playset has curved monkey bars, a solid bridge, and two metal slides (one straight and one spiral)
  • Two bucket and two strap swings
material: modern resin & metal; scale of space: smallish
Surface: rubbery
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: basketball court, random fenced blacktop area, small grassy stretches
Access: (dawn to dusk? not sure)

Impressions: Decent equipment (our 4-year-old had a hoot), but limited scenery and out-of-the-way location means it's unlikely to offer much to anybody not living in the neighborhood. (Exception: train-lovers, as freight trains pass by in view.)
Overall rating: 7

Shade for a hot day: Myers Rec. Center fields

Playground: Francis Myers Recreation Center (and Youth Access Center)
Location: 58th and Kingsessing (NW corner)
Date visited: 4/28/12

Equipment: Several pieces:
  1. Low playset has a solid bridge, easy climbing, and two low metal slides. The bench is a low wall that looks fun to walk too.
  2. High playset has miscellaneous climbing (including a larger version of barrel staves), medium and tall metal slides (4 & 6 ft), fireman's pole, and a stretch of monkey bars.
  3. Two older arched climbing ladders
  4. Four strap swings
  5. On the other side of a low wall is a water zone: a single central pole that appears to have nozzles pointing in all directions. (off at time of visit)
material: modern coated metal; scale: medium
Ages: 1.5-11
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: Y
Other: pool (fenced, with own hours), large expanses of grassy field, baseball diamond, basketball courts, tennis courts (with no nets), beautifully muraled rec. center
Access: (not posted; dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: Weathered but decent assortment of equipment for a range of ages. The real draw here is the big grassy field, which features a trio of mature sycamores perfect for a shady picnic; would combine well with the water sprayer for a hot summer day's fun!
Overall rating: 6 (playground)

Fun but needs upkeep: Mitchell Elementary playground

Playground: Mitchell Elementary
Location: Kingsessing & 55th (enter on Kings.)
Date visited: 4/28/12

Equipment: Several pieces:
  • Very large playset has two solid and one jointed bridge; small, medium, and large straight metal slides; lots of climbing; and an array of toys underneath (abacus, crawl-through hole, shop windows, seating areas)
  • Complex monkey bar zone: several long stretches that join at a hoop in the middle; there are also some stepping-stone stools here
  • A small playset has a solid bridge, wide metal slide (straight), musical chimes
  • Two freestanding basketball buckets
  • Space for six swings, all gone
material: modern resin/metal; scale: large school lot
Ages: 1-12
Surface: rubbery tiles; blacktop away from play equipment
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: lots of blacktop areas, tiled cement "bleachers" at far end could be fun to walk along
Access: ? (presumably, outside school hours?)

Impressions: Pretty well-designed equipment offers something for a range of ages (including some elements new to us), but completely exposed lot wouldn't be too fun in hot weather. Also, missing swings and large trash-collecting gaps in the play surface (a drawback to the tile system of surfacing) detract from its charms.
Overall rating: 7

Cute neighborhood lot: Walnut Hill Community Association Playground

Playground: Walnut Hill Community Association (Alice Jones) Playground
Location: 47th and Sansom (SW corner)
Date visited: 4/14/12

Equipment: One main playset and a number of smaller elements:
  1. Playset has some novel elements, including a twisted horizonal "ladder" and the games underneath (car raes, color sorting, and number tic tac toe), a solid bridge, low monkey bar rings and very high ones, a fireman's pole, and a tall spiral (plastic) slide
  2. Stepping stone "stumps" with attached vertical ropes
  3. A freestanding basketball "bucket" (can be played from all sides)
  4. A set of plastic bongo drums
  5. Two strap swings
material: modern resin/metal; scale of space: small
Ages: 1.5-11 (marked 5-12); no slides for tots!
Surface: rubbery around equipment; blacktop and brick elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: picnic tables (including some toddler-sized), checker/chess tables, some blacktop space
Access: marked "9am-8pm seven days," but it's been closed several Sunday mornings, so I doubt it

Impressions: Colorful and creative playset, but a wider range of offerings for games and puzzles than climbing and sliding. The lack of bucket swings seems a misjudgement, especially given that the other equipment offers so much for the youngest set to fiddle with (but not to slide down, feh). They had a small space to work with, and did a good job of covering a range of ages, but perhaps misjudged who the largest bulk of users are.
Overall rating: 7

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Some fun innovations: Veteran's playground

Playground: Veteran's Playground
Location: Cumberland between 8th and 9th (both of which go the opposite of their downtown directions!); parking lot on 9th
Date visited: 3/10/12

Equipment: Several pieces scattered around the play area:
  • Swings = 4 bucket and 4 strap
  • A set of "stepping stone" stools
  • A round vertical gong-shaped climber with rubbery ropes
  • A lower playset with "milk crate" steps and other climbing (including "barrel stave" style), a solid bridge, 2 straight metal slides (around 3ft high), and one of those pipe "intercoms" that actually works!
  • Higher playset has a neat "submarine lookout" rubbery net ladder, one solid and one jointed bridge, 2 straight metal slides (around 4 and 4 ft high), a fireman's pole, and a curved stretch of monkey bars
material: modern; scale of space: medium
Ages: 1-11
Surface: rubbery around equipment; blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: N
Other: basketball, indoor swimming pool, picnic tables (each broken to some degree), painted blacktop games, big rec. center (including a preschool on the far side)
Access: not posted (dawn to dusk? 6am - 10pm?)

Impressions: Cute and creative playground in the midst of a larger sprawling rec. center complex (and across from a school). A couple of things we haven't seen before, but could use a little upkeep of picnic tables and loose trash.
Overall rating: 8

In need of upkeep? Eagles Youth Village playground

Playground: Eagled Youth Village Park
Location: 10th between Arizona and Dakota
Date visited: 3/10/12

Equipment: Two playsets fairly close together in a corner park:
  1. Higher playset has climbing, 2 tall straight plastic slides, *lots* of monkey bar variants, and a fireman's pole
  2. Smaller is a gazebo with miscellaneous climbing, a chain "rope net," and a straight plastic slide (that ends high off the ground)
material: weathered "modern"; scale of space: small
Ages: 3-10
Surface: rubber tire "wood chips" and grass elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: grassy areas, colorful mosaic sculptural elements
Access: open lot

Impressions: Nice use of an empty lot to provide play equipment and grass for neighborhood kids, but equipment very weathered and abused, and slides end too high off the ground for smaller toddlers. Some cheery blue benches or tables had been broken to bits and splintered boards left lying around, and the wood chip depth seemed insufficient either to cover the canvas underneath or to make the heights of the equipment appropriate. Lack of swings another drawback.
Overall rating: 5

Liberty Lands: multifaceted Northern Liberties park

Playground: Liberty Lands
Location: 3rd St, between Poplar and Wildey
Date visited: Feb. 26, 2012
  • Larger playset has lots of climbing, jointed bridge, low straight slide, tall (8 ft?) spiral slide, monkey bars, chain rope net
  • Smaller playset has wide straight slide, chimes, shop window
  • Truck playset
  • Old-fashioned metal dome jungle gym
  • Small children's garden
  • 2 bucket and 2 strap swings
Ages: 1.5-11
Surface: wood chips
Shade(0-3): 1-2
Water: N
Other: grassy areas with windy brick paths, dog run, picnic tables, cement area with game zones painted, community garden
Access: Open (so presumably dawn to dusk)

Impressions: Cute grassy park looks like a beloved neighborhood resource with inviting picnic and run-around spaces. Nice mix of equipment for a range of ages would make for a pleasant family outing. Also a nice historical mural with 3D elements.
Overall rating: 8

Penn Treaty Park -- a unique riverside locale

Playground: Penn Treaty Park
Location: Beach St., just off Delaware Ave. at Marlborough (has its own parking lot)
Date visited: Feb. 26, 2012
  • 1 playset loosely modeled on a train engine, with slanted "cow-catcher" ladders, a crawl-through tunnel, 1 wide straight slide that ends too far off the ground, 1 curved slide
  • 4 strap swings, 4 bucket swings
  • narrow curved balance beam
Ages: 1-6
Surface: wood chips and dirt
Shade(0-3): 3
Water: N
Other: riverside park, paved trails, grass, picnic tables, views of city, river (and, ahem, gigantic abandoned Peco plant)
Access: No gates or fences, presumably officially closed after dark

Impressions: A nice area for a visit -- views of the river, Ben Franklin Bridge, and city skyline add to the grassy city park. Play area is limited and graffitied but otherwise in good shape and surrounded by mature tress that promise a respite in hot weather. Uniqueness of the setting should make up for the mild limitation in the equipment, at least if your kid is up for some inventive outdoor play.
Overall rating: 6 (as a playground, higher as a setting)

New and creative: 12th and Cambria Playground

Playground: 12 & Cambria Playground
Location: 12 Street between Cambria and Indiana
Date visited: 3/10/12

Equipment: Several pieces in a medium space:
  • Small playset has good types of climbing, a solid bridge, 2 straight metal slides, and a bench underneath
  • Larger playset has miscellaneous climbing, a stretch of modern spinning monkey bar rings, tall metal slides (1 straight and 1 spiral), toddler bits underneath (bench, shop window, crawl-through hoop), and a section of funky pyramidal rope climbing net
  • A row of raised "stepping stone" platforms
  • Swings = 4 strap + 4 bucket
material: modern resin & metal (except rope tangle)

Ages: 1-12
Surface: rubbery around equipment; cement elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: N
Other: pool, basketball, baseball field, chess tables, rec. center
Access: fenced, but no signs

Impressions: Colorful and varied equipment looks brand new and very inviting, and offers fun for a range of ages. Worth a visit, especially for anybody with enthusiastic climbers, since the rope tangle can offer novel challenges to various skill levels. Will be nice when the new trees are large enough to offer more shade... Some blowing trash.
Overall rating: 8-9

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Futuristic little playspace: Karen Donnelly Park

Playground: Karen Donnelly Park
Location: stretches narrowly from Dickinson to Greenwich in the middle of the block between 2nd and 3rd
Date visited: 1/24/12

Equipment: A number of separate sculptural pieces made of futuristic stainless steel, scattered around the artificial grass play space:
  • A real teeter totter! Metal with spongy rubber bumpers underneath and similar material forming seats on top (seats 4), but the same action as the old wooden ones.
  • A sort of golf-bal-on-a-tee contraption at calf that seems to spin and bounce up and down. (to sit on?)
  • A tall pole shaped like a cat-tail stalk, with a disk at the base, which bounces and leans, maybe spins...
  • A low arch (hanging bar + climbing?)
  • A large metal dome (screams "king of the hill" game) that channels slide-climbing impulses. [Note: A sign warns that this gets very hot in summer sun.]
material: techno-metal; scale: small
Ages: 0-8?
Surface: astroturf/brick
Shade(0-3): 0 (some young trees)
Water: N
Other: Some cement chess tables with cement benches.
Access: open

Impressions: Cute and innovative use of a tiny park space, but the futuristic play equipment is as much perpexing as inviting -- probably a group of kids would invent novel games around pieces a single preschooler couldn't really figure out how to play with (except for the teeter totter! whee!).
Overall rating: 7

Not terribly inviting: Ford Rec. Center playground

Playground: Ford Recreation Center
Location: Snyder between 6th and 7th
Date visited: 1/24/12

Equipment: Two zones close together but separately fenced:
  1. A single freestanding metal slide (around 4 feet high) and 2 bucket swings
  2. A medium playset with 4-6-foot platforms, straight metal and spiral plastic slides, straight monkey bars, and a fireman's pole
material: modern; scale: small
Ages: 2-10
Surface: rubbery/cement
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: basketball, swimming pool, rec. center building
Access: (not marked)

Impressions: Small play zone tucked into a low-rise block of Snyder is good for a snack but too limited for a longer visit, except maybe for a bucket-swinger. The colorful mural behind the pool is a really nice one, but blowing trash undermines its intended cheer.
Overall rating: 5

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cute neighborhood square: Nichols Park playground

Playground: Nichols Park playground
Location: Race between 55th and Conestoga
Date visited: 12/31/11

Equipment: Two playsets in a single zone:
  • Lower playset has some climbing, 2 plastic and 1 metal slide, and a solid bridge
  • Higher playset has misc. climbing (including a disk ladder, metal rope net), 2 low straight slides and 1 medium bumpy one (all plastic), and a very tall (9-foot?) spiral plastic slide; also a playhouse/store window underneath
Surface: rubbery/blacktop (& grass)
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: N
Other: sm. picnic tables, bandstand, extra blacktop with painted games, grassy areas
Access: open park

Impressions: Cute little neighborhood park has a decent mix of play equipment, although a little worn, but nothing really for older kids (e.g., no strap swings or monkey bars). Grassy areas add to the appeal, but there's not enough here to draw visitors from any distance.
Overall rating: 6

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Great play and sprayground options: Shepard Rec. Center

Playground: Shepard Rec. Center
Location: 57th at Westminster (just south of Haverford)
Date visited: 12/31/11

Equipment: Three zones in sight of one another:
  1. New-looking sprayground (fenced) with large colorful towers; looks like several sources of spray

  2. Smaller kid playground area includes (a) 2 hobby horses (zebra and dolphin) that actually rocked (!); (b) a new-looking playset: climbing wall, barrel stave climbing, hanging bar, low (5-ft) monkey bars, solid bridge, crawl-through mesh tunnel, three straight metal slides, and misc. climbing; (c) 4 bucket swings.

  3. Higher playset has novel types of challenging climbing (a twisting ladder, another that I can't describe!), 2 high straight metal slides and 1 wavy plastic one, a fire pole, solid bridge, straight (6-foot) monkey bars, and more. Also 4 strap swings here, although 2 broken.
material: modern; scale: large
Ages: 1-12
Surface: rubbery around equipment; cement and grass elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: Y!
Other: pool, baseball field, tennis, basketball, large grassy area, picnic tables (including some covered), large rec. building
Access: not posted (dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: Recently renovated and inviting playground offers a great range of options for all ages, from crawlers to more advanced scramblers, faced by houses on one side and a SEPTA bus garage on the other. Sprayground was off-season a our visit, but looks intriguing and made us want to come back. Shaded picnic tables and expanses of grass make this a good option for a longer family outing, and young trees offer promise of increasing shade over the play equipment. Worth a visit!
Overall rating: 9

A nameless little neighborhood play zone

Playground: unnamed
Location: on Cherry just east of 56th
Date visited: 12/31/11

Equipment: Single playset, with 3-6-foot platforms, miscellaneous climbing, a long curved stretch of monkey bars, low straight and tall spiral (plastic) slides. A large wooden planter on one side might offer some "walking along the wall" challenge. A little graffitti, but otherwise in good condition.
Ages: 2-10
Surface: rubbery
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: --
Access: open

Impressions: A little neighborhood playground surrounded by townhouses and fenced back yards. Good basic single playset (decent for a range of ages), but just a short snack -- no grass or swings for broader explorations.
Overall rating: 6

Token at best: John Barry elementary school playground

Playground: John Barry elementary
Location: interior of block bounded by Arch and Race, 59th Street and Redfield
Date visited: 12/31/11

Equipment: Mostly just a blacktop lot, aside from one low basketball net and a small playset including two low slides (1 straight, one bumpy) and one higher (spiral) and a climbing wall.
Ages: 1-6?
Surface: blacktop
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: --
Access: appear open (= dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: It's hard to imagine that this little equipment is enough for the elementary school students, let alone enough to draw anybody for a visit. Maybe if you've got an antsy kid right nearby, but we didn't even get out of the car for this one!
Overall rating: 4

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Packed recreation space in a quiet neighborhood: Barry Playground

Playground: Barry Playground
Location: 18th and Bigler (NW corner)
Date visited: 12/24/11

Equipment: Two zones slightly separated:
  • Smaller playset has misc. climbing, straight and curved plastic slides, and a solid bridge. There are also 4 bucket swings in this area.

  • Larger playset has high platforms, 2 straight metal slides (6-ft) and one spiral plastic slide, 2 jointed bridges at different heights, monkey bars, fireman's pole, etc. Also in this zone are 4 strap swings and a large curved (freestanding) rope climbing net (7-8 feet tall). There's also a low stone wall enclosing this area, which looks fun to walk along.
Surface: rubbery/blacktop
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: basketball, tennis, swimming pool, baseball, some grassy areas, extra blacktop areas, rec. center
Access: 6am-10pm (pool = 11-7 days, 1-6 wknd)

Impressions: The bigger kid area here feels new and reasonably creative, well kept and clean. The smaller zone is close enough to make it easy to keep an eye on both at once, so this park is good for families with kids of mixed ages. Extra blacktop for kicking a ball, etc., and lots of good recreation space generally. A quiet neighborhood means it feels peaceful to play here, but the lack of shade could be a killer in midsummer.
Overall rating: 8+

A tiny play outpost in a large civic green: Marconi Plaza NW

Playground: "Marconi Plaza NW" (no offical name)
Location: Oregon & Moyamensing
Date visited: 12/24/11

Equipment: Several pieces in close proximity (enclosed in a low fence):
  1. An old-fashioned geometric dome metal jungle gym, bars spaced widely enough to be only for bigger kids
  2. Swings = 3 strap (outside fence) and 4 bucket (inside)
  3. A small modern playset with hanging bars, a stretch of straight monkey bars, and three plastic slides (2 straight and 1 spiral)
Ages: 1-11
Surface: rubbery around equipment; grass elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: park
Access: not posted (= dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: Large formal park with lots of trees, but unfortunately located spanning Broad Street and up against busy Oregon and Moyamensing (especially the corner where this equipment is). Park is probably nice in warmer weather, but this northerly playground (there's another in the SE corner of the park, across Broad) feels a little bleak. Bigger kids would probably enjoy the jungle gym if they don't mind the backdrop of constant traffic.
Overall rating: 6