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Our Connection to Parks – Playgrounds

June 20, 2013

In this second installment of the “Our Connection to Parks” series, I remember playgrounds from when I was young.

Recently, while looking for historic park images, I came across a blog all about playgrounds called Playscapes. I spent the next two hours reading about playgrounds and wishing I could go play right then.

The blog features hundreds of photographs of old playgrounds, with historical information including entries about architects and artists who have created some of the most awesome playgrounds ever. Who wouldn’t want to play at the Franconia Sculpture Park in Franconia, Minnesota?

It seems like many playgrounds installed today are not the fun, creative, and imaginative places that I remember from my childhood. I understand that there are many safety concerns, and the fear of lawsuits is definitely a bigger issue than in the 1980s, but I miss gravel and wood-chip playgrounds with metal slides and monkey bars.

As I child I would visit my grandparents in DeSoto, Texas, where my grandmother would take us grandkids to the most amazing playground I’d ever seen. It was all wood and built to look like a huge castle, complete with drawbridges that swung when you ran across them and towers with windows just big enough to throw things at your younger brother (and then duck so he wouldn’t see). When I searched the parks in DeSoto, I couldn’t find any pictures of the park I remember. I imagine it’s been renovated into a more insurance-company-friendly structure.

The author of the Playscapes blog discusses playground preservation in several of her posts, and I find the subject incredibly interesting. I do understand that some playgrounds need to be replaced for safety concerns or other reasons, but do all? I think that some playgrounds are significant and should be preserved as they are, and not ripped out by some well-meaning (but possibly misguided) park and recreation director. (Check out the Playscapes post about playground preservation here.)

What do you think? Should the significance of a playground be taken into account when considering renovations? Do you have memories of innovative playgrounds from your childhood? Or do you know of great playgrounds in your city today? Let us know in the comments below!

 

More posts from the Connections series


About the author

Nona Capps
Nona Capps has been with the Eppley Institute since 2009. Her main focus is on park planning projects and the Interpretive Development Program for the National Park Service. Before the Eppley Institute, she worked as a seasonal interpretive park ranger at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

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