August 20, 2010

What makes a park a good park?

Mesa parkFall is fast-approaching, which means that our Park-A-Day Summer Challenge is coming to a close. Our intrepid challengers, who have by now visited nearly 50 local parks and playgrounds, are starting to reflect on their experiences, drawing from their newly gained -- and hard-won -- playspace expertise.

Here, Marily Smith, from Playful City USA Mesa, Ariz., shares her thoughts on what she looks for in the ideal park:

Now that I am more than your average park-goer I have been asking myself the question, “What makes a park a good park?” Some parks are just more fun or more comfortable or more special than others. Here's what I have been drawn to :

  1. Shade. Especially in a hot climate like ours, the best thing you can find at the park is not a new, fancy playground—it’s simply good shade. On a sunny day a really fun jungle gym will keep your kids interested for a while, but if it’s too hot and there’s no shade, no one is going to want to stay outside for long. Good shade means a playground gets lots more use.
  2. Grass. The greener the park is, the better it feels to be there. We live in the desert so one great thing about the city parks is the feeling of stepping out of the desert for a while.
  3. Brightly-colored equipment. Bright colors just look like fun. When a playground has vivid, clean, equipment, the kids naturally get excited. Even old equipment can get new life with a fresh coat of paint.
  4. Seating. Some park benches are simply better located than others. Near our home, when we meet friends at a certain park, the moms either end up sitting on the concrete or we try to remember to bring our own chairs. The benches are out in the sun on the wrong side of the playground. We sit under the trees that are closest to the playground. Benches won’t get much use if they are too far from the playground equipment or they aren’t shaded.
  5. A little something special. My five-year-old has from time to time announced at one park or another, “I want to come here again!” That’s how I know a specific park has made an impression on him. And it’s generally not because the park is sparkling new, the lawn is mowed, or the park’s even clean for that matter. It’s because he found something fun at the park that he hadn’t seen before. I like the parks that have extras like a walking path, hiking trail, exercise circuits, or rolling green hills. My like extras like a play vehicle to climb on or super tall slide.
  6. Cleanliness and safety. Even with all the extras, if Mom doesn’t feel like the park is clean and safe, we’re not going to go. Equipment must be in good condition and yes, the park needs to be in a good part of town. 

It has taken me visiting over 40 parks to come up with what I like the best. What makes a park a good park to you?


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summer challenge, park-a-day kaboom! summer challenge, arizona, mesa