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Playground Harmony

Fri, 07/01/2005 - 10:00am
Last updated
1 year ago
Time to

“Do you double-dog dare me to slide down this hill?”


“Ok, then you go first.”

“Who dares walk up our hill? We are giants!”

Out of the mouths of children at play come the most entertaining conversations. These children were enjoying a day at a playing field that has everything.

What if you went to this terrific playing field where you could do just about anything you wanted to do when playing? What if you could go from the accessible-to-all play structure complete with safety surfacing to the water park and then to a nice bench to rest on after you get a drink of water from the fountain? THEN when you want to get out of the sun you have a shady spot to relax in under the shelter. When you’re ready to get moving again you have this great hill to roll down and a bike path around the perimeter that not only goes around the play structures, but the soccer fields and the baseball diamond. You could rollerblade there, and you could even stop and fly a kite if you wanted because there was this wide-open space with no power lines to grab your kite.

Is that your dream playing field? This can be a reality. It’s not just about the swing set and the slide anymore.

Playing fields have evolved into this sort of mega play place, and it seems they are being designed more and more to accommodate everyone…and in harmony. You’ll see people in the wheelchairs being pushed around so they can enjoy the fresh air and the ambience of children at play. There is also the father and son throwing a football, the man walking his dog, a couple riding bikes, children on the play structure, inline skaters and a mom relaxing on the blanket as she watches the soccer game. You’ll also find a softball tournament going on at the quad of baseball diamonds, the children flying kites in the open field, skateboarders enjoying the modular equipment, a couple playing Frisbee and those two little children mentioned earlier getting ready to slide down the hill and give their mom the best grassed-stained pants ever to wash. She won’t mind though, it’s all about the benefits of getting out and enjoying the sunshine, the grassy hill and the friendships that are forged in the process.

If you go to watch your child’s baseball or soccer game, it’s likely that there is a play structure near for the children not playing in the game. It is almost this one-size-fits-all movement in design now…something for everyone.

Nowadays, the perfect playing field encompasses all of these things and more, including a lot of open space, a bench to relax on and possibly in the shade of a tree or shelter. The water fountain is accessible to all, and there might even be hands-on learning activities through the nature trail available. If you want to have a picnic, there is usually a table available or at least plenty of space to spread out a blanket and relax. You might find a grill to cook a hamburger or hot dog, or maybe there is even a concession stand that will do that for you, and all you have to do is eat and enjoy the beautiful day. There might even be a pavilion for musical entertainment. The list goes on to maybe include a water park, either zero-depth or tubing options and a pool. City-run day camps might even be a possibility in a place such as this. Volleyball nets and horseshoes could be available. The list seems endless, and so it should be in a place that everyone could enjoy.

One of the most important considerations in this is the choice of surfacing to allow access for all and help ensure safety. One choice for surfacing would be Surface America, based in Williamsville, NY. They have a complete line of sports and recreational systems for use in both outdoor and indoor playing field applications. The three surface types you might consider for an outdoor field are part of their A-Turf synthetic grass athletic fields. The PlayBound Poured-in-Place is an option that provides 2.44 pounds of material per square foot in the top layer. This long-lasting system uses a special volume of urethane for strength and durability that is also mixed with rubber to maximize durability. They mix these on-site so that school colors, games and shapes or logos are a permanent fixture of the surface. They also have a porous design that can withstand high levels of use.

The next option would be the PlayBound Tiles. These are manufactured by Dodge-Regupol, Inc. and partner company, BSW of Germany, for a dual density product. The bottom is flat with solid sides for maximum adhesive contact with the tile bottom and base and between parallel tiles. This means less gapping and a more secure installation.

The TurfTop has infill and is great for play areas as it has a durable, natural-looking surface. The polyethylene fibers and rubber granule infill are resistant and resilient to continuous foot traffic and the elements. Water is able to run through the rubber infill through the porous design, which means no rain delay.

These options are an attractive, durable option for surfacing. Surface America takes sound construction practices seriously, and their installation crews are very skilled in the installation process, which ensures longevity of the field. You can take a closer look at their IPEMA and ASTM certified products at www.surfaceamerica.com.

So, you get the picture about what needs to happen for surfacing. It needs to be durable, aesthetically pleasing, resistant to the elements and resilient as well. Now, let’s talk about placement. It certainly wouldn’t work to have a play structure right in left field. There are safety concerns, and all components need their own space. A playground design should work well with the surrounding surfaces and recreational components including the soccer fields, basketball courts, skateparks and any others that could be found in a schoolyard and/or community park setting.

So it seems the goal is to create that harmony with the structures, fields, surfacing and amenities.

There are parks that are designed to also be harmonious with nature, meaning leaving a part of nature virtually untouched or at least partly. This is where a landscape architect can come in. This type of setting creates an interaction with outdoor environments and is also a calming atmosphere as Susan Goltsman, principle of MIG, Inc. (named after its founding principles Robin Moore, Daniel Iacofano and Susan Goltsman) notes. Each component of the playing field should be able to function on its own and in its own area while adding to the general appeal of the area.

It seems to follow the “a place for everything and everything in its place” saying about organization. There does need to be a certain amount of organization in planning taking place when a playing field is in the design stage. Many of the considerations in planning are rather common sense based. Having the right amount of area between components is important so you don’t end up with a soccer ball in the play structure or a baseball hitting a skateboarder while back siding. Much of the consideration about equipment leaving the designated area would likely be with sports that require the equipment such as a ball to fly to a certain area to play the game. It is recommended that you consult with a landscape architect to be sure you are choosing the right components and placing them in the right area.

Thinking Today About Tomorrow's Play™ The only magazine that is 100% dedicated to the Playground Industry

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