Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ziehler playground: ample playground, could use some shade

Playground: Ziehler
Location: B St at Olney
Date visited: Jun. 17, 2013

  • Smaller fenced-in zone with fun "firetruck" jungle gym (with low monkey bars) and a low playset with a tube slide (empties even with the ground), 2 medium straight slides, climbing, "tic-tac-toe" critters, and 4 bucket swings
  • Zone for bigger kids with 4 strap swings (1 missing) and a higher playset with six slides (including straight, bumpy, spiral and tube slides, all plastic) and lots of climbing options
Ages: 1-9
Surface: rubbery amid blacktop
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: basketball, baseball, and soccer fields; extra blacktop and grassy areas; colorful rec center with covered picnic area, swimming pool
Access: 10-6?

Impressions: This playground is a bit faded and worn (with some loose trash and graffiti), but actually offers reasonable play options for younger frolickers, in a setting of wide grassy ball fields.  Middle school across the street probably generates some weekday traffic, but lots of places for a shady picnic on the weekend.  The thing this space most needs is more shade, and there are several grassy squares in the pavement offering places to start a tree-planting project.

Overall rating: 6

Barrett/Lindley playground: nice spot in North Philly for the smaller kids especially

Playground: Barrett Playground (according to sign onsite; Google map calls it Lindley playground)
Location: 8th and Duncannon (location of playground; large field is on Lindley, at 7th)
Date visited: Jun 17, 2013

  • Small kids' zone (fenced in, shady) has a cement turtle (can climb on or under), 4 bucket swings and a small playset with a jointed bridge and three plastic slides (2 straight, 1 curved)
  • Bigger playset has 3 tall straight slides (2 plastic, 1 metal), 1 spiral plastic slide, monkey bars, and a fireman's pole
  • 4 strap swings near bigger playset
  • freestanding "totem pole" water sprayer, surrounded by a cement circle
Ages: 1-11
Surface: rubbery, though dried out/hardened in spots
Shade(0-3): 1 (some in small-kids zone, none in big-kids zone)
Water: Y (see above)
Other: chess tables, extra blacktop, tennis courts, large football field (plus multiple baseball, though seemed largely unused), basketball, small rec center
Access: fenced in, but not sure about hours, presumably standard rec center hours

Impressions: Nice spot for little kids, with a deeply shady protected corner of the park.  Decent offering for older kids, but the equipment gets no shade from the many trees (although the swings do) and the raggedy ground surfaces and occasional trash and graffiti detract a bit from the experience.  Basically fine, with a relatively quiet residential setting, but not a draw from any distance

Overall rating: 7

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A little playspace between rowhouses and industrial stretches in Brewerytown

Playground: Unnamed
Location: Jefferson at 30th
Date visited: 7/27/13

Equipment: Two zones, close together but fenced:
  • The playset is large and meandering, which is fun in itself. It includes two high slides (straight and spiral) and one lower (curved), all metal; a solid bridge; crawl-through hoops and store window underneath (+ small bench). There is also a set of "stepping stone stools" here.
  • The second "room" of the playspace has swings: 4 strap and 2 bucket. This also opens onto a lot of extra grassy area, including a great hill for rolling or running down.
material: modern resin/metal; space: small
Ages: 1-10
Surface: rubbery
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: nice basketball courts, baseball diamond
Access: not marked (dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: A little corner space nicely divided up into quadrants for play and sports. Beter-than-average playset, given the space, but the playground could use some love, especially on the trash-containment and graffitti-fighting fronts. (Lack of signage may result from this being a private undertaking -- maybe an Eagles project? -- so not under city oversight.) All-metal slides were hot on a sunny day, but the grassy hillside is very enticing!
Overall rating: 6

A second visit: A new face for Francisville playground

Playground: Francisville Rec. Center playground
Location: Wiley, close to 19th and Brown (rec space fills most of block) -- there are many entrance gates
Date visited: 7/27/13
Equipment: Three distinguishable zones:
  1. One structure here has lower platforms, two plastic slides (one curved and one bumpy), one tall metal slide, and misc. climbing including a rope net. There's also a medium-sized playset with two metal slides (one wide and one narrow, both straight), climbing, and a shop window and bench underneath. There are two bucket and four strap swings nearby.
  2. There's an updated water zone with a cute central palm tree and a ring of pavement sprayers. (We didn't see this in action.)
  3. This zone has a lone playset with one metal slide (left from before the update?) and a lot of fun games painted on the ground (incl. hopscotch and a maze race) and a low brick wall.
material: modern resin/metal; scale: large
Ages: 1-8ish
Surface: colorful rubbery around equipment; blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: Y
Other: basketball, playing fields, colorfully painted rec building, pool
Access: 9:00AM-10:30PM (summer); 2:00pm-10:30pm (winter)

Impressions: We went back to this playground (review from 2009 here) after a tip that it had had a facelift. It is indeed more colorful and inviting, and equipment is fresh and functional (as reflected in our improved rating). However, there is still nothing to challenge older kids (e.g., monkey bars or spinners) or really make this a top draw for those from other parts of town. Still, nice trees could shade a picnic for a longer day, and with both a sprayground and a pool, this playground worth considering for hot summer afternoons.
Overall rating: 7-8

A playspace in the gap between Temple and Girard colleges: M. L. King Rec Center

Playground: King playground
Location: On Cecil B. Moore Ave between 21st and 22nd
Date visited: 7/27/13

Equipment: One zone with several components:
  • A tall playset with two tall plastic slides (bumpy and spiral), a jointed bridge, etc. There are 4 strap swings nearby.
  • A smaller playset with a straight metal and a curved plastic slide, solid bridge, tic tac toe animals, etc. There are two bucket swings nearby.
  • A water zone = a cement circle with a pole that mists in all directions.
  • Not official play equipment, but inviting: a long series of low walls to walk along.
material: modern resin + metal; scale of space: med/large
Ages: 1-8
Surface: rubbery/blacktop
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y
Other: picnic tables (one missing its top), basketball, another fenced cement area (handball? hockey?), ball fields (baseball and football), swimming pool, extra grass, large rec center (partially serving as an adult/seniors building)
Access: dawn to dusk?

Impressions: Perfectly adequate equipment for neighborhood play, but nothing to go out of your way for (unless you plan to swim). Nice grassy fields for a ball or frisbee break.
Overall rating: 6

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ramp: upscale playground and athletic area in the shadow of Father Judge HS

Playground: Ramp
Location: Solly Ave. (at Rowland)
Date visited: 5/12/13

  • bigger playset: tall straight and spiral slides (metal), fireman's pole, solid bridge, lots of climbing, arched monkey bars, tall and short hanging bars
  • small playset: low curved and tall wavy (mogul) slides (plastic), solid bridge, climbing, tic-tac-toe galore
  • six strap and two bucket slides
Ages: 1.5-11
Surface: rubbery/blacktop
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: Y (single pole)
Other: fancy baseball (little league, and used by Father Judge HS), basketball, rec center with covered area, hockey court, extra grassy areas
Access: M-F 1-9 PM, Sa Su 9 AM-5 PM

Impressions: Busy and cheerful playground surrounded by a range of well-maintained athletic space.  Decently designed for a range of ages (although no particular novelties) and shaded grass areas invite a picnic
Overall rating: 8

Pelbano: NE playground not quite up to the level of its partner rec center

Playground: Pelbano
Location: Bustleton Ave. (at Stanwood)
Date visited: 5/12/13

  • big playset: high wavy plastic slide, low double straight plastic slide, bus wheels, monkey bar spinners, miscellaneous climbing, broken game underneath, broken swing toy (?)
  • small playset: five plastic slides (two straight, two curved, one bumpy)
  • two strap swings, two bucket swings  
Ages: 1-8
Surface: rubbery
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y (single sprayer)
Other: rec center (basketball inside), basketball court, baseball field, extra grass, paved walks for skating, etc., extra blacktop, tennis courts (no nets)

Impressions: Large and well-kept (or new) rec center and extensive athletic space is appealing, but the play equipment offers little to challenge or even interest kids over about 3.  A couple broken pieces, in conjunction with missing basketball and tennis nets could indicate neglect or just that things weren't yet brought online for the season when visited in mid-May.  Popularity of strap swings indicates another pair would be justified.
Overall rating: 6

Monday, June 17, 2013

Jerome Brown playground: bounty of fun in Nicetown

Playground: Jerome Brown playground
Location: 20th and Ontario
Date visited: 3/17/13

  • low playset: solid meandering bridge, low metal slide, low-angle climbing wall, metal rope net for climbing
  • high playset: vertical climbing wall (2 types), circle of monkey bars, zip lines, single and double metal slides
  • four strap and two bucket swings
  • free-standing modern bar teeter-totter (half-broken)
  • free-standing set of 3 fireman's poles w/arched ladders
Ages: 1.5-11
Surface: rubbery
Shade(0-3): 2
Water: N
Other: basketball court, grassy hill, extra blacktop, square and regular picnic tables, colorful decorated rec center, Septa and Amtrak trains run right next
Access: 6 AM-10 PM

Impressions: Recently renovated playground makes good use of a small space with a variety of challenges for all ages.  Looks likely to be shady and cool in summer, nice neighborhood setting, and the occasional passing train is fun to watch
Overall rating: 8 (maybe 9?)

Panati: appealing reclamation project in need of another round of reclaiming

Playground: Panati Playground
Location: 22nd and Clearfield
Date visited: 3/17/13

  • low playset with two plastic slides (straight and curved)
  • four bucket swings
  • curved ladder/climbing structure
  • wall to walk on
Ages: 1-3
Surface: rubbery/blacktop
Shade(0-3): 0-1
Water: N
Other: rec center, basketball court, communal garden plots

Impressions: This space abutting the hulk of an old manufacturing plant has been lovingly reclaimed by the community and is awash in nice murals and colorful benches, bricks, and other elements.  However, there are signs of neglect and disrepair, including large empty spaces where clearly there once was play equipment; what remains is of interest to only the smallest kids (0-3).  Perhaps when more of the industrial spaces are reclaimed/renovated this play space will get some new equipment and a little love.
Overall rating: 5 (for littles only)

Shuler: playground and athletic fields on the western edge of North Philly

Playground: Shuler Playground
Location: 27th btw. Clearwater and Indiana (just S of Allegheny Ave.)
Date visited: 3/17/13

  • 2 low space pods separated/joined by path/bridge
  • low playset with straight metal and curved plastic slides and extra climbing
  • 2 pelican hobby horses
  • 4 bucket swings
  • higher playset with 2 straight metal slides, solid bridge, miscellaneous climbing, fireman's pole
Ages: 1-8
Surface: rubbery/blacktop
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: hopscotch, basketball, baseball, swimming pool, soccer/football field (?), recreation center
Access: 6 AM-10 PM

Impressions: Decent play equipment in decent shape with additional playspace, but nothing to draw visitors from outside the neighborhood (and seems like it would be hot on a sunny summer day).  Might or might not get traffic from the school across the street.
Overall rating: 7

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Amosland Park: an extensive playground just outside SW Philly

Playground: Amosland Park
Location: E. Amosland Rd. (between Winona and Cleveland, drive into park), in Norwood PA (just SW of SW Philadelphia)
Date visited: 4/21/13

  • Tall playset: 2 climbing walls, "iceberg" climbing steps, three bumpy/wavy slides and three spiral slides (all plastic), a solid bridge, and two curvy slides
  • Lower playset: four plastic slides (1 low, 2 taller straight, 1 tall wavy), shop window, lots of things under (to crank, etc.)
  • Old-fashioned merry-go-round
  • two bucket and six strap swings (high)
Ages: 1-11
Surface: wood chips
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: picnic tables, baseball and soccer fields, lots of grass
Access: not gated, so presumably dawn to dusk

Impressions: A nice suburban recreation park, with tons of grassy fields surrounded by low houses and woods.  Lots of cheery kids of all ages on the sunny spring day of our visit.  Looks like the small building might offer concessions on hot days or during sporting events.  Shadeless, but nice for a spring or fall outing, maybe with a picnic.

Overall rating: 8

A mini-playground nestled between rowhouses in Northern Liberties

Playground: nook on Lawrence St.
Location: 856 Lawrence St. (between Brown St. and Poplar St.)
Date visited: 4/27/13

Equipment: one playset with platforms connected by two bridges, two small slides, four ladders (including a wide rope ladder), high hanging bar, plus a shop counter and walk-through hole.

Ages: 2-6
Surface: rubbery carpet over almost whole space
Shade(0-3): 1 (shadow of neighboring rowhouse)
Water: N
Other: Basketball 1/2-court, benches
Access: has a closable gate, no posted hours (was open for 11 AM Saturday visit)

Impressions: Cute small space carved out from a double-wide lot between rowhouses.    Well-maintained neighborhood space; equipment is not extensive, but is in good shape, and the ambiance is particularly nice, with a mix of isolated trees, a flowerbed, and a small wooded area.  Bonus: it's a perfect pairing with Honey's Sit 'n' Eat (just a couple blocks away!)
Overall rating: 7 (hard to compare to others; aesthetically appealing but not a full-scale playground like most of the rest)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Belfield playground: range of options for smaller kids

Playground: Belfield Rec Center
Location: Conlyn St. and 21st St.
Date visited: 5/14/13

  • Small play-set = wide metal slide, coil ladder, tunnel ladder, platforms
  • Small play-set = small spiral plastic slide, 2 small side-by-side plastic slides, bridge, 2 ladders (coil, quarter-barrel)
  • Medium play-set = spiral plastic slide, monkey bars (curving), hanging bar, 2 ladders (straight, curved), shop counter
  • 4 strap swings (a bit squeaky, one wrapped when visited), 4 small bucket swings
  • 3 rocker animals (don't rock)
Ages: 1-7
Surface: Rubberized by play-sets, blacktop between
Shade(0-3): 2
Water: N (well, there's a pool)
Other: Pool, basketball counrts, rec center (other end of block), rest room building (I think?), baseball field across Conlyn St.
Access: Gated (so presumably standard rec center hours)

Impressions: Decent for smaller kids, with 3 play-sets to choose from, but tired-looking, and little to interest or challenge most kids over 7.  Nice trees partially compensate, but a facelift would be nice (with more climbing options...)

Overall rating: 6

Kemble Park: just swings

Playground: Kemble Park
Location: W Olney Ave at Ogontz Ave.
Date visited: 5/14/13

Equipment: 2 bucket swings, 2 strap swings, used to be more?

Ages: 1-4
Surface: Rubbery wood chips
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: Basketball courts (1-1/2), big park, many trees, kitty-corner from Central High School, which maybe doesn't translate to much, except on a lovely day, near dismissal time, an ice cream truck shows up

Access: Open (public park)
Impressions: Lovely setting, but, um, it's just swings!

Overall rating: N/A; it's just swings

Young Rec Center: A tot playground in East Germantown

Playground: Young Recreation Center (Google maps also calls it East Germantown Rec Center)
Location: E. Chelten Ave near Ardleigh Ave.
Date visited: 5/14/13

  • Small play-set = 2 small straight metal slides, mesh tunnel, 2 sets of steps, ladder, shop counter
  • Another small play-set = small straight metal slide, 2 small ladders, step ladder, pair of connected megaphones (which actually work!)
  • 4 strap swings, 4 bucket swings
Ages: 1-4
Surface: rubberized around play-sets
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: N
Other: 2 baseball fields, recreation center, basketball court
Access: Gated (so presumably subject to rec center hours)

Impressions: Decent equipment for smaller kids, and all in pretty good shape as well.  Setting is pleasant, being inside a block-sized set of fields.  But there's too little here to hold the interest of older kids, and even for smaller kids, it's really only a snack -- nice to have two play-sets for their age range, but neither is as extensive as the typical Philadelphia play-set.  The recreation center looks like a substantial one, so would seem natural to have a bit more extensive playground partnered with it.

Overall rating: 5 (for younger kids; not recommended for bigger kids)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

An interesting playground in the Lemon Hill zone of Fairmount Park

Playground: Lemon Hill playground (probably not its official name; couldn't see an official name...)
Location: Poplar Drive, near intersection with Poplar Street (you can't make this stuff up...)
Date visited: 3/30/13

Equipment: fairly large platform play-set, with two bridges (high straight, lower arched), five ladders (including two submarine-style), two large plastic slides (one spiral, one straight), smaller side-by-side double-slide, low monkey rings (under high bridge), high monkey bars (really, loops...), novel sloped doorstep ladder with handrail, toadstool steps, 2 bucket swings, 2 strap swings, short play stage

Ages: 1 1/2-10
Surface: rubber-chips
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: basketball, picnic tables, baseball field, climbing trees, large hillside field
Access: open, though presumably dawn to dusk as part of Fairmount Park

Impressions: Pleasant Fairmount Park environment, on a sloped hillside with nearby picnic areas and ballfields, and an interesting view of a distant cityscape combined with the nearby densely packed small houses of the NW corner of the Fairmount neighborhood.  Play equipment not extensive as some but an interesting variety, in good shape, and enough to keep most kids engaged for a while.  Seems like a perfect accompaniment to a Fairmount Park picnic and a great resource for the local neighborhood.

Overall rating: 7-8

Pennsylvania Avenue Playground: Art Museum resource for small kids only

Playground: Pennsylvania Avenue Playground
Location: Pennsylvania Avenue at 27th St (and Aspen St)
Date visited: 3/30/13

Equipment: one playset for small kids, with platform-style climbing, shop counter, 2 short metal slides, 2 ladders (coil and quarter circle), and 4 swings (2 strap, 2 bucket)

Ages: 1-4
Surface: rubber-chips
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: nice view of Art Museum, Kelly Drive
Access: Surrounded by a chest-high fence, but gate seemed unlikely to be locked
Impressions: Appealing on the aesthetics (both the view and the gazebo style equipment), but there's not much here: a small space with a medium-sized play-set without challenge for older kids.  A nice stopover if you're in the area with a toddler, but not enough here to merit a separate trip
Overall Rating: 5, and only for kids under five 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sturgis Playground: a great Oak Lane space with too little playground

Playground: Helen Sturgis playground
Location: W 65th Ave and 2nd St.
Date visited: 6/16/12

  • Small playset with miscellaneous climbing, fireman's pole, straight metal slide (wide) and pair of plastic slides.  Room for 5 bucket slides but all missing
  • Medium playset with miscellaneous climbing and 1 tall wavy plastic slide, solid bridge, 3 tic-tac-toe games, and 3 strap swings (plus space for one more but not even chains present)
Ages: 1-7
Surface: rubbery surrounded by blacktop
Shade(0-3): 3 (very shady)
Water: Maybe?  Sprinkler seemed to be present, but drain clogged when visited so it was just a swamp  
Other: lots of grass with mature trees, basketball, small rec center, baseball and/or football?, soccer  
Access: 6 AM-10 PM

Impressions: Lovely shaded setting surrounded by tree-filled lawn and athletic fields, in a tidy and attractive neighborhood, so it deserves better than its current underwhelming play offerings.  The area designed for older kids offers nothing for anybody over 6 or 7 (despite it being posted as for ages 5-12), and has empty space where a couple of newer pieces could easily change that.  The little kid zone has no swings and a swamp of broken sprinkler space (which also needs a surrounding wall), although the playset there is adequate.  A playground in need of Councilmanic attention!  (or local school partner...)

Overall rating: 4

Olney Rec Center: sports fields galore, and a fun playground too

Playground: Olney Recreation Center
Location: Spencer St. & A St., just east of Front St.
Date visited: 6/16/12

Equipment: Two zones (one on each side of rec center)
  • Small kids' zone: 3 bucket swings, 1 strap swing, low climbing playlet with jointed bridge, low metal slides (one single, one double (with end too far off ground...))
  • Bigger kids' zone: impressively large, with spiral metal slide and three straight metal slides, high solid bridge, long stretch of monkey-bar rings (plus a short stretch under the bridge, though some missing there), many climbing apparatus including 2 submarine-style, metal "rope-net", fireman's pole, bench underneath, footstools
Ages: 1-12
Surface: rubbery surrounded by blacktop
Shade(0-3): 0 (recently-cut large tree in small kids' zone removed only shade source)
Water: Maybe? (there's a spaceship-like structure with a drain surrounded by cement walls, but no obvious spray nozzle visible)
Other: grassy park, rec center, basketball, tennis, baseball (near and far off), football, concession stand, mural (from era preceding Mural Arts Program)
Access: open access, so presumably dawn to dusk

Impressions: Great setting in a large open space with long vistas and broad expanses of grass, nice equipment in good shape, little trash.  Good for a range of ages, maybe in combination with a picnic.  Clearly lots of athletic league and activities here, probably a big neighborhood draw, worth a stop if you're in the area.

Overall rating: 8

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cherashore Playground: in SEPTA's shadow in Fern Rock

Playground: Cherashore Playground
Location: at a dead end on W. Chew, east of 10th St.
Date visited: 6/16/12

  • Zone for smaller kids has climbing and 3 straight slides (double plastic, single metal), 3 kinds of tic-tac-toe, 6 bucket swings (1 broken), and a cement whale for clambering
  • Zone for bigger kids has a stretch of curved monkey bars, solid bridge, plastic spiral slide, straight metal slide, and 3 strap swings (room for 2 more with no swings or surfacing)
Ages: 0-12
Surface: rubbery/blacktop
Shade(0-3): 3 (little kids' zone)/ 0 (big kids' zone)
Water: N
Other: baseball field (with active little league on day visited), basketball courts, tennis, rec center, hopscotch
Access: 6 AM-10 PM

Impressions: Big space, with a decent mix of play equipment in a little residential slice near the giant Fern Rock SEPTA transport center.  Easy to park on the dead-end road, and playground offers a shady end as respite on a hot day, but nothing to draw anybody from a distance unless the sight of idle Broad Street subway cars nearby is a lure.  

Overall rating: 6

Monday, March 4, 2013

A snack in the near Northeast: Russo playground

Playground: Russo playground (in Tacony Park)
Location: Intersection of Torresdale and Cottman (SE corner)
Date visited: 10/6/12

Equipment: Several pieces tumbled together in a flowing zone:
  1. A giant rope climbing web (very widespread -- our nearly-5-year-old couldn't master it)
  2. A standard playset with two medium plastic slides, a curved stretch of monkey bars, a tall curved plastic slide, high hanging bar, etc.
  3. A smaller super-modern playset with high wide arches and various lower ropes to climb, a medium plastic slide, a lower curved hanging bars, and chimes
  4. A plastic climbing rock
  5. Two bucket and four strap swings
  6. A freestanding water sprayer (shaped like a huge crayon) with multidirectional sprayers
  7. A "memorial tot lot" that didn't seem to be anything
Ages: 1-12
Surface: rubbery
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y
Other: Rec center with covered area, grassy areas, ball fields, chess tables, tennis, long paved paths through park
Access: not marked (dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: A fun and colorful play space tucked into the corner of otherwise busy roads, and which serves as the entry to grassy and wooded areas behind. Very well designed to squeeze a range of challenges into a small space, using a mix of traditional and "adventure" equipment. New plantings promise shade someday, but meantime worth a visit on a cooler day, with almost any age.
Overall rating: 8+

Another nice spread in the Far Northeast: Fitzpatrick Playground

Playground: Fitzpatrick playground
Location: Academy (just west of Torrey)
Date visited: 10/6/12

Equipment: Three zones, pretty close together, as well as a set of swings (4 bucket and 4 strap):
  1. Play jeep for "driving" and climbing, along with a three-seat hobby-horse-teeter-totter
  2. The larger playset (marked 5-12) includes a rubber rope climbing tube, tall straight metal and curved plastic slides, a solid bridge, a curved strand of high monkey bars, and tic tac toe underneath
  3. Smaller playset (marked 2-5) has a solid bridge, wide metal and curved plastic slides, misc. climbing (including toddler-friendly "barrel stave" type), and tic tac toe
Additionally, there's an arched pipe that appears to be a water element (drain underneath, etc.) but not on at time of visit.
material: modern resin + metal, scale: medium
Ages: 1-10
Surface: rubbery around equipment; cement elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: Y
Other: picnic tables, small rec. center, basketball, hockey (?) rink, parking lot, large grassy (soccer) field, wooded park across street
Access: 6am-10pm

Impressions: Relatively new-looking playground offers a nice mix of equipment and pleasant plantings against the backdrop of busy Academy Road (and occasional passing of small planes to/from North Philadelphia Airport). Looks like it abus a highschool, which could make for a busy feel on weekdays, but peaceful (if shadeless) on our fall weekend afternoon. Not sure who, if anyone, lives near this site...
Overall rating: 7

A gem in the Far Northeast: Junod playground

Playground: Junod playground
Location: Dunks Ferry Road just west of Lester
Date visited: 10/16/12

Equipment: An assembly of many types of modern play equipment into several loose zones:
  • Two stone elephants are left from an earlier era (used to be sprayers, but no drain now, so just for climbing), out in front of the rec. center. The rest of the playground is to the left/behind the building.
  • Lower playset (under the trees) has low monkeybars, rope net climbing, binoculars and megaphone
  • Medium playset includes a climbing wall, med. metal slide (steep!), a low bench underneath, standing (angled) spinners, and climbing
  • There's a large set of swings including 4 bucket and 6 strap swings
  • One grouping is two freestanding spinning cups and a three-person hobby-totter
  • Large playset has an angled balance board/climber, vertical rope array with climbing and sitting nodes, rope-ish monkey bars, a harder climbing wall
  • A large and festive water sprayground includes poles that spray many directions, arches that spray inward (to run through), and a tall palm tree
material: mostly modern rope-and-metal adventure style; scale of space: medium
Ages: 2-12
Surface: rubbery around equipment; cement or grass elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: Y
Other: recreation center, grassy areas, tennis, soccer (tons), basketball, extra blacktop
Access: 6am-10pm posted

Impressions: This inventive and colorful playground takes the play innovations seen at Franklin Square and Herron Park, but includes water, swings, and enough grass to support picnics and frisbee galore. No shade on most of the playspace is a drawback, but benches aplenty for weary caretakers. Worth a visit, especially with older kids who are jaded on the challenges of more typical playgrounds -- they won't run out!
Overall rating: 10

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Small playground in a large rec space -- Water Tower/Houston playground(s)

Playground: Water Tower Playground @ Harry Howard Houston Woodward Recreation Center
Location: Ardleigh Street at E. Hartwell Lane
Date visited: 3/2/13

Equipment: Two zones, on opposite sides of large building:
  • The smaller zone (on the rec. center entrance side) has a free-standing "firetruck" jungle gym, a sand box, a small but fun old cement climbing shape, a playset with low slides (straight and curved plastic) and a jointed bridge, 4 bucket swings, and stretches of curved bench to walk along
  • Larger-kid zone (on far side, where the water tower is in sight, near baseball field) has one main playset with tall straight and medium curvey and bumpy slides (all plastic), monkey bars, a solid bridge, and misc. climbing. Also in this area is a water zone consisting of a 5-foot stone wall with several sprayers (and a pleasant porous plastic footing).
material: modern resin/metal; scale: medium
Ages: 0-7
Surface: rubbery, sand
Shade(0-3): 3
Water: Y
Other: picnic tables, baseball field, large rec. center, basketball court, grassy areas, lots of tennis, some blacktop
Access: not marked (dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: Pretty fine conventional playground, but with less to interest of challenge school-age kids. Great overall recreational space, so good for combining a short clamber with running around in a big field, say...
Overall rating: 7

A woodsy wonderland in Chestnut Hill -- Jenks Playground

Playground: The Children's Park in Chestnut Hill at John Story Jenks Elementary School
Location: Germantown Ave. at E. Southampton
Date visited: 3/2/13

Equipment: Two large zones, separated by a walkway:
  1. Smaller kid zone (to right of entrance) includes several large structures encompassing a balance beam, wide plastic slide, large horizontal tire swing/climber (semi-tethered), med-height monkey bars and stretch of rings, a large sandbox (including a number of toys) a climbing fort with a slide and crawl tunnels underneath, a sand table, a large "trolley" to drive, some tic-tac-toe-like games, a set of chimes, and nearby swings (2 bucket and one chair-style). Substantial sections of the play space are designed to be wheelchair-friendly.

  2. Larger kid zone also has multiple structures, with a higher average height and complexity than the other zone (lots of steps, towers and platforms, benches). Specific elements include two tube slides (one spiral, one gently curved, both plastic), solid bridges, wander "hallways" under stairways, some challenge climbing (wobbly chain step ladder, rope net web, etc.), a chain bridge to walk along, a rappelling wall, a rubbery mat bridge, high monkey bars and a stretch of rings, a suspended balance beam, and a tall hanging bar.
material: wood beams, resinous "wood-like" planks; scale of space: large
Ages: 0-14
Surface: wood chips, mostly
Shade(0-3): 2
Water: N
Other: picnic tables, large paved play yard, basketball hoops
Access: open to the public outside of school hours = 3-9pm on school days and 8am-9pm on other days

Impressions: Built in 1997, this community playground on the grounds of an elementary school is a real winner. Unusual woodsy feel in the middle of Chestnut Hill -- wood chips and chunky wooden equipment give the feel of a rural wonderland to explore, and the variety (and age range) of equipment nearly defied cataloging. Truly great for crawlers to teens, weelchair-friendly, and even -- ahem -- quite fun for middle-aged parents. Worth a trip (and easy to combine with some shopping, especially at the nearby indoor Farmers' Market).
Overall rating: 10

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A pleasant respite: McCreesh Playground

Playground: McCreesh (?)
Location: 68th at Regent
Date visited: 9/14/12

Equipment: Long thin playspace with two main play zones and a water zone:
  1. Larger playset has high and low metal slides, arched monkey bars, and a fireman's pole. Also 6 strap swings here.
  2. The smaller playset has two medium metal slides. Also in this area is a double "space-pod" climbing structure with a connecting bridge, and 4 bucket swings.
  3. Water zone = a single pole sprayer (many holes at various heights, but not on at the time of our visit) surrounded by cement.
material: modern; scale: medium
Ages: 1-10 (& skateboard zone)
Surface: rubbery; blacktop
Shade(0-3): 2
Water: Y
Other: basketball, skateboard park, grassy areas, ball fields, overview of train tracks, picnic tables, rec. center
Access: not closed (dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: The combination of a sunken skateboard park and a shaded play area give this park/recreation space a lot of appeal. It seems nicely maintained and is pleasantly sandwiched between a low-rise neighborhood and a woodsy stretch of track. Worth a stop if you're in the area (especially if skateboarders are practicing their tricks).
Overall rating: 8

A nice park with a minimal play space: Connell Park

Playground: Connell Park playground
Location: near the center of the open park, between 64th and 65th, Elmwood and Gray's
Date visited: 9/14/12

Equipment: Two playsets:
  • Lower has 2 straight plastic slides (about 3-foot tall) and one tall metal slide, a solid bridge, and misc. climbing
  • Higher has a straight metal and a spiral plastic slide, a fireman's pole, and a stretch of monkey bars. That's it.
Also, 2 bucket and 2 strap swings
Ages: 2-9
Surface: rubbery around equipment; grass and blacktop elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 2
Water: N
Other: basketball, lots of grass, some extra blacktop, recreation building (with "4 million books project" mural)
Access: (not posted = dawn to dusk?)

Impressions: This open grassy park is inviting on a warm afternoon, and groups of folks from the neighborhood bring lawn chairs over to enjoy the space. Enough space for frisbee or to toss a ball. Play equipment is adequate but unremarkable. A large fallen branch and some loose trash need removing, and there is broken glass in spots. (A trash can would help.) Ok if you're passing by.
Overall rating: 5-6

Thursday, January 17, 2013

61st & Baltimore Play Area: Cute park on the fringes of Cobbs Creek

Playground: Cobbs Creek 61st and Baltimore Play Area (yes, that's its official name!)
Location: Baltimore and 61st (not many parking spots here, but can turn N on 61th and park there)
Date visited: 11/11/12

  • Tall playset with platforms, arched bridge, 4 ladders (including one habitrail-style), 3 metal slides (short, medium-wide, spiral), shop counter, ground-high benches, crawl-through circle
  • Free-standing clamber, sort of like monkey bars in a circle
  • 4 strap swings, 2 bucket swings
  • Grasshopper rocker -- works nicely, appealing-looking
Ages: 1-7
Surface: rubbery wood chips
Shade(0-3): 2
Water: N
Other: basketball court (maybe lit), park w/grills and picnic tables, Caribbean restaurant w/water ice across the street, trolley turnaround for vehicle-ogling entertainment, car wash
Access: 24/7

Impressions: Nice smallish park on busy avenue and end of Cobbs Creek Park.  Equipment in good shape.  Not super extensive but enough to entertain for 15-30 minutes
Overall rating: 7

Angora Park -- mini-playground in a great SW Philly setting

Playground: Angora Park
Location: Baltimore & 57th & Washington (it's a skinny triangular park)
Date visited: 11/11/12

Equipment: one platform-style playset for small kids, containing 2 straight metal slides, a straight ladder, a ladder made of steps, and a pair of megaphones (which actually work!)

Ages: 1-3
Surface: rubberized
Shade(0-3): 1
Water: N
Other: lovely park, a Kentucky Fried Chicken
Access: 24/7

Impressions: Great setting, but little to do.  It's only for small kids, and even for them, there's only enough here for a short amount of entertainment.  But if you're looking for a nice place to picnic and hang out, and briefly visit some play equipment, this is your place.
Overall rating: 5 (for its quality, but in terms of quantity or entertainment level for a breadth of ages, this is lower)