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