Roxhill Playground: The castle’s successor may be a fort

(Click for larger image)
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 And watch the official project website for updates, including the images shown last night (our versions above are just photos).

22 Replies to "Roxhill Playground: The castle's successor may be a fort"

  • Jim P. October 18, 2011 (10:29 am)

    Did anyone ask the kids what they’d like?

    • WSB October 18, 2011 (10:31 am)

      That was brought up. Sadly, unlike the skateboarding meeting five days earlier, and unlike other (other) playground-project meetings we’ve been to, no kids showed up. – TR

  • Debbie October 18, 2011 (11:07 am)

    I should have gone. I am a kid at heart and love the castle, but maybe not the splinters. (Or, for what it’s worth, the human [guess] feces contained within last time I was there.)

  • Cheryl October 18, 2011 (12:04 pm)

    Ho hum. I’m bored to death already and it’s not even built yet. Tree fort? You must mean BLAH Fort.
    I can guarantee you, my 5 year old won’t be all that impressed either. Ugh.
    Only TWO swings for the bigger kids & two for the babies/toddlers? Um. My kid pretty much wants to spend all her time on swings, 2 isn’t really going to cut it.
    It also feels too spread out, especially for such small playscape equipment. Just more boring beige and hunter green plastic (yuck!), nothing colorful (essential in our gray, wet climate IMO), or fun, or interesting, or challenging.
    Oh well, I don’t go to Roxhill park now b/c of the creepy element hanging out in the park all the time. The bad news is, this new design won’t do anything to encourage me to bring my kid either. What a shame – I am “shocked” at the lack of design here, and at the lack of interest in creating something the kids would like. Oh wait. No, I’m not.

  • Heath October 18, 2011 (12:45 pm)

    I have loved bringing siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews to Castle Park since it was first built in the early 90s. I will be sad to see it go and seem to recall that the current design was based on children’s ideas a nd drawings from Roxhill elementary school wiith funds raised by local businesses like target and 7-11 which gave the park a real community feel. Either way the fort design is nice it just wont be Castle Park anymore.

  • Diane October 18, 2011 (2:25 pm)

    unfortunately the project team did not give handouts with pics/details about each design; in fact, looking at my info sheet from the meeting, there’s not even a list of names of companies for each design
    many of us really liked the ‘European modernistic treehouse-like’ design, by Berliner Seilfabrik; but the architect said repeatedly from the get-go, that it was too expensive to do all of the elements in the pic, so we would have to mix with parts of other designs if we wanted that one; she also said the structure did NOT have to be 20 ft high, that it could be altered to any height; looking at their website, there are literally infinite possibilities to this design in shapes, heights, colors, activities, etc; it would be helpful to get some numbers on what cost might be with less height, other options
    after searching for an hour, I finally found the design presented last night in their online catalog; it’s called ‘Neptun 17’ in the ‘Univers Combination’ on page 58; this design is massive; could we get something similar in a scaled down version?
    here’s their online catalog to see many options, close up details, perhaps worth considering, even at higher cost
    and their products are ‘green’, which I don’t recall being mentioned in the meeting; just found this on their website
    “Play Equipment for Life
    This claim means a lot to us. It defines the way we build playgrounds and the way we think.
    Our playgrounds are made for generations — built to last for decades to bring movement not just to our kids, but to their kids also; therefore addressing sustainability in the interests of future generations.
    To achieve an optimum of sustainability, playgrounds have to be long lasting investments. We make our play structures last for decades, which makes replacements less necessary, thus saves resources. A large percentage of our playgrounds installed before 1980 are still in use, still safe, and still fun to play on.
    Berliner Seilfabrik uses Aluminum made from 85 percent recycled pre-and postconsumer material. The steel we use to build our durable playgrounds is made from 70% postconsumer recycled steel. Our production has been PVC free for more than a decade. We take every step in the ‘cradle-to-cradle’ process seriously and ensure that the total carbon footprint of our products is as small as possible. Over 90 percent of our products and materials are recyclable and we put the remaining metal and HDPE remnants back into the recycling process. Our state-of-the-art powder coating process works solvent-free.
    At Berliner Seilfabrik, we don’t just think green, we work green.
    All of our products meet and exceed the regulations for lead in paint, lead in substrate and phthalates to protect both: our kids and the environment.”
    when considering cost, they guarantee their equipment for 10 yrs because it’s made extremely durable, requires little to no maintenance; I also don’t recall this coming up in discussion; isn’t it important to consider? could we get numbers from project team re typical costs for maintenance over 10 yrs to compare the more durable with the cheaper, likely less durable options?
    the ‘Explorer Dome’ was from another design scheme, by Kompan Worldwide, based in Denmark, with local Tacoma subsidiary
    details of this design were much easier to see in the pic provided at the meeting, and seemed to be implied that it was less expensive; looking at rendering on their website (compared to Berliner) much less exciting
    ‘about us’ page talks about making structures flexible for all abilities to play, which is a plus
    ‘green’, safety & health info
    it’s really too bad the meeting was so short, much to see/discuss; handouts would have been VERY helpful; we couldn’t see details from a distance; and would have been great if more folks had shown up and brought some kids
    Cheryl, how bout coming to the next design meeting, and bringing your daughter; the project team can only do so much without constructive input; please show up and tell them what you want; and/or check out the design links and email your desires to the project lead; if you know of any other fantastic playground products that could fit well here, let the project team know about it
    I still need to research info on the “BLAH Fort”, which had some wonderful natural playscape elements; I love bold colors integrated into the natural, but please not circus red/blue/yellow like we were shown; and my input was that modern and natural can look beautiful together, if done well in the same design; perhaps some of the Berliner Seilfabrik ‘Neptun 17’ along with some of the more natural looking components of the ‘Tree Fort Theme’; there’s a treehouse for little kids, and AdventureScape
    personally, not overly thrilled with any of the options; we were picking from what was shown last night

  • Cheryl October 18, 2011 (3:15 pm)

    My daughter goes to Roxhill Elementary, she’s in Kindergarten. Those kids are at the park OFTEN and I swear to g-d, I weep for them if the tree fort is the design Parks/Rec goes with. Ugly and boring as h*ll. Did ANYONE think like a little kid when they put forth that design? B/c frankly, I think the people involved are clearly thinking like grownups, or are locked in another decade of playground design. Nothing cool, hip or remotely interesting about that tree fort. But I already said that.
    There is a GREAT playscape at a little park on Anbaum between Burien and White Center, has a much more “modern” design like Diane mentions above (the “Berliner Seilfabrik” equipment). I always want to play on it, that’s how cool it is. And it promotes more than just passive play… it promotes CLIMBING and exploration and imagination, etc.
    Come on West Seattle, think OUTSIDE the box. This isn’t about you, or the rest of us “old folks”, this is about the kids. Do we want this park to be a destination, and a place where our kids want to play, or just another ho hum whatever park? I live only blocks from here, I know which I’d choose and it ain’t ho hum.
    And no, I’m not a fan of the “clown colors” either (blue and yellow). Just think we could do all sorts of rad greens, like lime or pea green, mixed in with some screaming bright red or burnt orange (fall leaf colors) to compliment the natural park setting, without being so 80’s Hunter Green – booooooorrrrrrrring. Remember, babies and young children respond best to primary colors, NOT pastels. Just sayin’.
    P.S. I’d love to bring my daughter to the next meeting! Tell me when/where. :)

    • WSB October 18, 2011 (3:25 pm)

      It’s at the end of the story. Nov. 14th, same place (SW Library), same time (6 pm).

  • MLJ October 18, 2011 (3:38 pm)

    The main issue that struck me about what’s happening here, informed heavily by my skatepark adventures, is that all of the playground options being presented here are prefabricated and being ordered from a catalog.

    We skatepark advocates have made a strong case for custom design/build facilities because they’re simply more interesting, unique, and can better reflect the unique locations and communities that they’re built in.

    Now I’m a dad and I too am visiting all of the playgrounds all over Seattle. Sometimes my son and I go on “tours” where we have fun going to different playgrounds in a single day, looking for a varied experience. We always end up coming to the same conclusion: they’re all kind of the same, especially the ones built in the last 1-5 years.

    What we have now at Roxhill is unique because even though it’s not totally built from scratch, the “kit” it came from could be assembled in many different ways. The designer and builder actually could create something unique with the pre-fab elements to some extent. With all of this plastic catalog stuff, I just don’t think we’ll get even close. The best you can do is different combinations of the same elements and maybe orientation.

    When people respond to losing the castle, and not really feeling the same satisfaction from what they’re seeing in these presentations, I think people are reacting to the “off the shelf” plastic options they’re being shown, and the lack of custom work being offered. I understand the limitations of wood, but with wood you can build whatever you imagine. With plastic, you have to fabricate, mold, etc…

    …and let’s face it, it’s much easier and less expensive for Seattle Parks to just order something and put it up than to come up with something custom. I think there’s probably a middle ground, like what’s there now, that feels custom and unique without breaking the bank.

  • dameDonna October 18, 2011 (9:25 pm)

    I know that there won’t ever be one design that pleases everyone, and unfortunately I couldn’t go to the meeting, but I hope someone is addressing the safety issues of where the site is set up. I love the current play structure (and would prefer a non “stock” play structure go in), BUT I hate that it completely blocks not only your line of site but actually blocks grown-ups from easily getting to the other side of the structure. It is set up right next to the parking lot with all the seating for adults on the opposite side. This is the park we almost always go to and is closest to our house, but I’ve never felt at ease while there due to the parking lot next to the play structure. I hope they think this through better, especially in such a large park.

    • WSB October 18, 2011 (9:30 pm)

      I’ll say again what is written at the end of the story. PLEASE SEND YOUR COMMENTS TO PARKS if you haven’t already. While we have reason to believe a fair amount of public officials/employees read comments here (from remarks they’ve made, etc.), there is no requirement that those be taken into consideration – while, if you e-mail them directly, or at least “also,” it’s part of the record, and that really does make a difference in some cases. Especially projects like this. I’ve seen it several times in just the past few years of intensively covering WS news … the pithy saying about “things are decided by those who show up,” even if it’s only 7 people, really holds true.

  • Amanda October 18, 2011 (10:03 pm)

    I like the design shown. It has some cool “natural” feeling elements, but how about actual boulders instead of concrete ones? (don’t worry TR, I have sent an email as well) The castle is cool and MLJ is right in the want for unique designs. Steve Cox Park has some great things, made by Kompan – but a lot of the new parks feature this designer. We have a lot of local artisans and fabricators in West Seattle / White Center (the new forge on Delridge comes to mind). Could we approach some of them? Does this have to be “European”?

  • Seaviewer October 18, 2011 (10:51 pm)

    I like the modern play structures like the ones on Ambaum and under the Highpoint water tower as much as the next dad. But it’s nice to have a variety of them.

    I personally don’t care if it’s pre-fab, custom built, or something in between. All I care about is that it’s different than what we’ve got already. If some park in Kent has the exact same structure, I couldn’t care less.

    We hit different parks around WS from time to time. Whale Tail is different than Lincoln Park. Ercolini has different stuff from Delridge. We like that weird old one hidden away down the beach at Seahurst park.

    I like taking my kids to all of them so they have different stuff to figure out.

    The “tree fort” proposed doesn’t really look like anything else we have in WS. Looks fine from this Dad’s perspective. My boys would be all over that thing.

  • Brontosaurus October 18, 2011 (11:19 pm)

    My son will be devastated if the “castle” goes, and I know a lot of other kids will be too. Isn’t there some option that could renovate or rebuild it? So far, I’ve had to explain why the rides went away at the Seattle Center, why the Alki Bakery went away…all treasured memories from his childhood, and he’s only 5!

  • JD October 19, 2011 (7:24 am)

    Needs more swings

  • LC October 19, 2011 (1:46 pm)

    I agree, this proposal is nothing special and totally Boring. My kids also LOVE what they call Castle Park and it should be re-built as is, rather than a bland pre-fab going in. Yuck!

  • MLJ October 19, 2011 (5:24 pm)

    One example of a (much bigger) but unique custom play area is Beacon Mountain, going in at Jefferson right now and a smaller unique project is the new Seward Park playground. Both projects required advanced funding from grants that Roxhill doesn’t have, but are good examples to look at if you want to see how others have created something unique and not just ordered it from a catalog.

  • Diane October 19, 2011 (6:35 pm)

    thanks so much MLJ for the great positive example; I want to go play at that mountain playground right now
    put the above pic of the ‘fort’ up next to the ‘mountain’ pic, and try not to laugh at how pitiful the fort looks in comparison
    wonder if we can get anything even close to the mountain design at Roxhill within the budget; do you have any idea what that playground cost?

  • D-Mom October 19, 2011 (7:53 pm)

    I’m so sad to hear about the Castle going away. My son loves that place and it’s really the only playground that I actively play with him on. I too wonder why it can’t be replaced with a castle just like it. But, if it has to go away, I agree that the forest design seems boring. We really need to take a lesson from the Seward Park neighborhood. It was parents and neighbors who formed the Seward Park Playground and Improvement foundation who raised the money for the really great design they have there. It’s going to take more than Seattle Parks to get something we and the kids want.

    Here’s an article about the foundation and the new playground, which really is special.

  • Amanda October 19, 2011 (10:36 pm)

    Too bad we couldn’t get the new owners of Westwood Village or Target Corp to kick in some pennies for something like Beacon Mountain! It would bring a bunch of new folks to the area, which is a boon for White Center and the burgeoning things happening there.

  • JO October 20, 2011 (3:46 pm)

    Wow! This is all such great feedback. I just emailed some thoughts to the parks folks from the link in the story. Thanks WSB for the info and for encouraging people to share ideas and concerns both here in the comments and to also do a quick copy and paste into an email to the project lead. It can really help the team get a complete picture of what people would like. You never know, your idea might be the one that makes all the difference!

  • MLJ October 21, 2011 (3:05 pm)

    @Diane: The Beacon Mountain project will cost over $1M. The Seward Park project is closer to Roxhill at about $800K. It’s done by the way, and I think it will really appeal to people who like the Castle.

    Better pictures here:

Sorry, comment time is over.