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