By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Termites forced their hand.
That’s what was revealed last night as the cause of the damage that led Parks to suddenly shut down the south play structure, and to remove it shortly thereafter. In addition, the discovery led to an inspection of other similar structures citywide – and accelerated plans to replace some, including one in West Seattle; more on that later. First – what last night’s meeting was all about: Gathering opinions on what the new play area should include.
The meeting at The Kenney was sparsely attended, but the team from Parks was excited to already have received 250 responses to this online survey, which you can reply to if you haven’t already. (Here’s how responses are going so far.)
Parks manager Susanne Rockwell and landscape architect Pamela Alspaugh led last night’s meeting (with the project construction manager observing), which revealed some basics about the project’s scope and timeline as well as options for what could be installed.
Rockwell said the project has $600,000 budgeted – “might seem like an exorbitant amount of money, but by the time we get through the taxes, fees, permits … it will be just enough.”
They hope to start construction next spring but it’ll last into summer – so the play area will not reopen by next summer. Rockwell said, they’re going to try hard to not affect the nearby picnic area.
Landscape architect Pamela Alspaugh explained that the old play equipment’s termite damage had gone undetected until it had gone too far. “After that, we inspected all of our play areas that are wood like this and have taken out two others – Discovery Park and David Rogers Park.” They also discovered “the same issue” at EC Hughes Play Area‘s swings, and see a looming problem at its main play structure, so that one will be replaced too, with the design to be done next year. Two other play area rebuilds are ahead: Hiawatha and Puget Ridge.
Alspaugh mentioned the old zipline by the South Play Area, which had been removed even before the play structure (people had been hurt, she said) and said the area is too steep for a new one – there’s a “cable ride” at the north play area. She also said they’re taking into construction critiques such as that there’s not enough seating area at the play area, and no stroller parking. She went to three play area companies to ask them to suggest possibilities, and that’s what they brought – not for opinions on exact considerations, but to ask for thoughts on the elements of what they suggested.
Rockwell said they’re not looking at changing the overall footprint of the area but they’re likely going to shuffle the elements’ location – moving the swings (which remain open) to where the play structure used to be, putting the new play structures where the swings are now, and removing the sand pit – “PLEASE remove it,” the parents in the room said, in agreement. The existing seating walls will stay, as they are working around tree roots.
Before looking at what they showed (we’ve requested a digital version, but for now, we are showing photographs of the boards that were used at the meeting), keep in mind that what Parks wants are opinions of elements of these possibilities, not just considering them all-or-nothing options. Among them, “View A”:
The option below shows a “climbing tower” with two levels (12′ high and 6′ high) – “really challenging play for kids,” similar to a structure at Montlake and another one that’s being installed at Discovery Park, Alspaugh explained.
The next one shows some possible components, including a swing set with at least four swings, an 8-foot slide a “spinner” that kids can stand on and spin, and little spinning seats.
Whatever is chosen, they can customize with net climbers, ladders, poles, other frequently requested features.
The next views included a treehouse-form design:
And possibly animals (cat, raccoon), plus a sort of monster that one Kenney resident who sat in on the meeting took great objection to.
“That is SO horrible!” she exclaimed. (Nobody else was terribly enthused about it, either.) Another attendee wondered if any park in Seattle had those types of features. Woodland Park Zoo, mentioned Rockwell; also Lake Sammamish State Park, said Alspaugh.
In the animals of the view/option above, the cat is a ladder to climb up. There also is a different kind of seating for parents, grandparents, caregivers who might come with the little ones- kind of a swing, with a tot swing next to them.
And then the “Allplay Systems” view had some different types, including a sort of obstacle course.
Don’t get fixated on the colors in the renderings, Rockwell cautioned – they could be changed.
After briefly describing the options, the team went around the room and asked for opinions.
One parent voiced concerns about too many hiding places – need to be able to keep your eyes on the kids. She likes the obstacle course idea but don’t make it too high. Poles, noisemakers up toward the top.
A couple with a baby – who was very patient – noted that their daughter will be playing on the new play area when it opens. Dad said he appreciated the fact signs about wildlife and birds at the north play area – so since you can see the water from the south play area, incorporating that type of theme would be cool. Maybe the ferry, too, volunteered a grandfather whose grandkids are playground-age. Back to the baby’s dad – he suggested more-natural colors. The mom didn’t like the idea of so many nets in the play equipment but did like the slide and climbing rock.
A grandfather, whose grandchildren are 1 1/2 and 6, supported natural colors too, and an area where kids could use their imagination. He thought the net features could be good. He said his daughter didn’t think informational panels were necessary but he kind of liked them himself.
The mom stressed again that good seating is vital – for the parents (etc.)’s sake – because you spend so much time at the parks, sitting while the kid(s) play for hours on end.
After a few more comments, the meeting broke up, and the Parks team explained what’s next:
*They’ll be updating the project website next week
*Comments from the survey and this meeting will be used to formulate more fully formed designs to show at the next meeting, which is set for 6-7:30 pm January 24th, also at The Kenney (7125 Fauntleroy Way SW)
*After that meeting, design will be finalized, and the project will go out to bid, with a contractor to be hired
They promise they’ll “build into the construction documents” considerations such as leaving the pathway open and staying away from the nearby picnic areas, since the construction will be happening through next summer.
DESIGN THOUGHTS BEYOND THE SURVEY? You can e-mail Rockwell – firstname.lastname@example.org