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By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
After the first time a Seattle Parks team came to Southwest Library to talk about what will replace the beloved but deteriorating “castle” in the Roxhill Playground renovation project, some wondered if its successor could be another castle.
It could, but it probably won’t be.
Last night, at the second community design meeting – spirited despite a turnout with a grand total of seven – though possible replacement “castles” were shown, in the end, a “fort”-style design proved the most popular.
This was the meeting to present a “schematic design” for the $450,000 playground overhaul, which will be built at the same time as the adjacent Roxhill Skatespot. It also tackled site issues beyond the future play structure.
The skatespot’s addition to the site, at the northwest corner of Roxhill Park, affects the playground to some degree, as Parks’ project manager Kelly Davidson and senior landscape architect Shwu-jen Hwang explained — not just a matter of keeping them separate, but also in potentially enabling parents visiting Roxhill with older and younger kids to keep an eye on both spots.
Before reviewing the five presented options for the play structure, the Parks team brought up the site issues and ideas. They’re proposing that the main entrance/exit to the play area continue to be where it is now, between the play structure(s) and the restroom building to the south, but Hwang said they might pave it “so it’s more formal.” The space between the play area and restroom building, however, will likely be reduced, and the informational kiosk would move closer to the restroom building. A picnic table or exercise station was suggested for the area nearby, and the latter won some support.
They are proposing ringing the play area with a seven-foot-wide “loop trail,” which could be used by kids on bikes, too, as well as a trail coming from SW Barton, on the west side of the park space described as the “aesthetic field.” The main play structure itself will not be massed the way it is now, whatever the final design is, since as Hwang put it, the existing one “is kind of huge and blocks the view into the park” that stretches beyond, to the east.
One open question: Should the play area still have sand? Not a favorite element for Parks, the team said, but they wanted to throw that question out to attendees. After a couple rounds of discussion throughout the meeting, the answer leaned toward “no” – for reasons including everything from “if they’re sitting and digging, they’re not moving around” to the potential for the area being used as an impromptu outdoor litter box.
Then there was the issue of whether a protective barrier is needed between the parking lot and the central play area, despite what would be more than 40 feet of separation. No one offered strong opinions on that point.
There was, however, vocal support for keeping the big tree that’s currently right in the middle of the play area. Parks said it could go either way. And that segued into discussion of the play-structure options themselves.
One attendee pointed to the WSB-comments discussion following our report on the first design meeting and wondered if it were too late for other potential entrants, lamenting that on first look, nothing really jumped out, while other suppliers – such as this one – showed options that she described as more in the spirit of “the treasure we are about to lose.”
Not too late, necessarily, the Parks team said, though the discussion went on to focus on reviewing elements of the options that were offered. “Circulation and complexity” were the factors most important in play, said Hwang. Since sentiment for a new “castle” had been stirred in the previous discussion, a few were in the mix, as was one proposal featuring a wooden structure, a different echo of what’s at Roxhill Playground now.
The “fort” option by Landscape Structures eventually drew the most support. The rendering included that big existing tree, as well as the “fort” itself for bigger kids, and potentially other components such as climbing rocks and a balance beam. Its natural colors – brown/tan and green – also were popular, compared to bright colors in other options, described by Parks as “whimsical” but by attendees in less-positive terms.
Another appearance issue regarding the play structure, involving functionality too – making sure it doesn’ t have too many places to hide; an attendee who identified herself as a kindergarten teacher said it’s a matter of “being able to see a child and know they’re OK, rather than trying to chase them down all the time.”
One option that won some admiration, if not ultimately support, was a “European-style” play structure proposed by Kompan, including a sort of modernistic treehouse-like component that goes up 20 feet. The same sketch included a rope-webbed “explorer dome” off to the side, and that might fit into the “fort” scheme, some suggested, perhaps in place of the climbing rocks.
In the end, the “tree fort” won hearts because it “kind of carries on what is already there,” seems to fit another theme of Roxhill Park in general, with the restored wetland nearby, and seemed unique – as one person described the park’s current play structure, “Castle Park is different, it’s always been different.”
WHAT’S NEXT: One more design meeting is ahead, November 14th (also 6 pm at Southwest Library), at which time Parks will present “as close to a final rendering as we can share with the public.” In the meantime, Davidson stressed, there is still plenty of time for comments, regardless of whether you were at the meeting – be sure to e-mail her, since they’ll be taking comments for a few more weeks. She’s at firstname.lastname@example.org. And watch the official project website for updates, including the images shown last night (our versions above are just photos).