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Building a Playground… Building a Community

Posted
Sun, 05/01/2005 - 6:00am
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6 months ago
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TP Staff Report

Playgrounds can bring a community together. Just ask the residents of Charleston Place in Boise, Idaho. They joined together to design and build the playground that now serves not only as a place for the kids to play, but also as a meeting place for the community.

Recently, the residents of Charleston Place were the proud recipients of a new, beautiful park area. However, the one noticeable item that was missing from the park was a playground. Wanting to give all kids in the community a place to play, the Homeowner’s Association banded together and devised a plan to build a playground.

Faced with a limited budget, the association created a park committee, whose task was to select equipment that would both meet the needs of the community and fit within their budget. “We wanted this to be a place for families,” said Melanie Chipman, park committee chai,. “a place where children of all ages could come and play together.” That meant the playground needed activities that would appeal to kids ages 2-12 years. And finally, they wanted a playground that would be both visually and aesthetically appealing to complement their community.

With these details in mind the park committee set out to involve the residents and truly make the playground a community project.

The first way they did that was by involving members of the community at the early stages of the process. “We recruited the help of four of our families,” said Chipman. “Between them they had children ranging in age from 1 to 14 years old. We asked them to look through playground catalogs and visit playgrounds in local parks. They then reported back to the committee on what they saw, learned and liked.”

Armed with that information, they turned to Alan Yarrington of Recreation Idaho,

the local distributor for Playworld Systems playgrounds. Working with the park

 committee, Yarrington helped them design the playground that was perfect for their park—and that fit into their budget. Said Yarrington, “It’s important for a community group like this to have a variety of its members

participate in the process of selecting the playground equipment. That way we can meet the different needs of all of the

residents.”

The playground was designed to include a wide range of activities for all skill levels and abilities. Activities for younger children were readily available in the GroundZero elements of the playground. These ground level activities from Playworld Systems are a safe way for kids to improve balance skills, strength and just have fun! They also have tremendous play value and were a perfect fit with the Homeowner’s Association’s budget. The other structure on the playground provided a central activity center where kids of all ages could play together.

When the selection of the structure was complete, the committee made one final decision: the color palate. Using Playworld Systems’ extensive color selection, they decided on bright primary colors to make the play area vibrant and fun.

The next step was the installation. Once again, the Homeowner’s Association looked to the community for help. With some guidance from Yarrington, the committee organized a community build. Not only did this save money, but it also involved the residents in the actual building process. “If more individuals in the community are personally involved in the project they tend to take more ownership of the finished playground area,” says Yarrington.

Around 30 residents helped build the playground. “It was fairly easy to find volunteers since most of the people in our subdivision have children and were looking forward to the playground being completed,” Chipman said. The committee sent out flyers about the installation to the approximately 350 homes in the community, and encouraged people to talk to their neighbors about the build.

The installation took just over two days with volunteers coming out mostly on weekends to prepare the site and construct the equipment on scheduled build days. They completed the area by adding trees and benches around the perimeter and a grassy area for neighborhood teams to practice soccer.

According to Chipman, the new playground is a hit with residents. “The kids in the neighborhood love the park and enjoy playing on the playground,” said Chipman. “And people really take care of the park. I see homeowners cleaning up around the structure, and making sure the playground stays in top condition.”

The Homeowner’s Association has also found another beneficial use for the park. “We host our annual meetings at the playground area so kids can play while their parents participate in the meeting,” said Chipman. By doing this, they also found an increase in meeting attendance.

With more residents attending the annual meetings and sharing leisure time in the playground area, there is now a stronger sense of unity in the neighborhood. Children find playmates, adults enjoy camaraderie, and the community as a whole takes pride in the enjoyable recreation area they built together.

For additional information about Playworld Systems, go to www.playworldsystems.com or call 800-233-8404.

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