By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
If you’re going to design a playground, you might as well get young potential users involved.
That’s why Seattle Parks made a point of encouraging families to come to the design meetings for the new Lincoln Park South Play Area – a project accelerated by the termite damage that led to the sudden closure and removal of play equipment there last summer.
The second and final meeting, last night at The Kenney, resulted in some clear favorites – an orca climbing structure, for example, as part of the marine theme that resulted from an attendee’s suggestion at the first meeting (WSB coverage here).
But even if you weren’t there, you still have time to offer your opinions too:
As the meeting began, Parks’ Susanne Rockwell went over some toplines on what they had heard from more than 300 people providing online and in-person feedback:
Slides, swings, climbing elements were the most-requested components in online and in-person feedback.
Top response for frequency of visiting the park: 42 percent, at least twice a month. When do they visit? More than 80 percent “in the afternoon.” Where are they from? The two main zip codes in the area are where most responses came from – as well as other parts of West Seattle, and a smattering from South Park and Georgetown. What play-area style do you prefer? Top response, a play area with a theme. The idea of a marine theme blossomed at the first public meeting. Also a popular suggestion – netting for climbing.
Parks landscape architect Pamela Alspaugh went into design details:
The previous play area was 20 years old, and this is bringing it up to ADA design standards. Here’s the schematic design for the play area’s location west of the north side of the south parking lot:
It keeps the overall structure, with an existing block wall that Alspaugh says “is in really good shape.” Some of the walls will be modified a bit.
The play equipment for 5-to-12-year-olds will be on the north side, the one for younger children on the south side, and the swings where the old, termite-ravaged play structure previously stood.
They’ve addressed concerns about a need for more seating. They’re looking to add more on the west side, and also hoping to add an accessible route to the picnic area on the northwest side of the area, depending on how money goes – they want to “get the most play-area value” for the allotted money.
About the marine theme:
An area resident offered an anchor that’s been at their home for a long time, found off Fauntleroy, to Seattle Parks – the community will be asked whether they would prefer to place it at Cove Park (the small beach north of the ferry dock) or Lincoln Park.
Along with tiles like the one shown above, there also will be climbing rocks – the marine-themed options are a 6’5″ orca, a 2’9″ starfish and an even-lower rock-crab climber. The final design can incorporate one of the three, Alspaugh said. She said repeatedly that the orca is costliest, so they would like to hear people’s priorities.
The pavement can include molds that resemble scallop shells and sand dollars; “stars or other elements” are possible as well, Alspaugh said.
The Allplay Systems climbing equipment is already set (but won’t include the orange color shown on the boards):
For the 5- to 12-year-olds’ play equipment, here’s Option 1 (which drew the most support).
Along with the slides, it includes a firepole-type element, as well as a ramp and a hexagonal deck with different toys that someone in a wheelchair could use. A similar play element has just been installed at Discovery Park, Alspaugh said, and is already proving to be popular. The safety rails on the top level are designed to resemble twigs.
#2 also has an accessible ramp up to a deck, and the tower is the same, but here’s the difference:
It includes a bridge to a hexagonal deck, with a spinner and overhead ladder.
The 2-to-5-year-olds’ structure would include “very small” elements, as requested, for the very young children. It’s at the bottom of this rendering:
About the new swings: At least four can be included – six, if some other elements are removed. Alspaugh thinks four will be enough – mentioning another park where that number is sufficient, “because there are other things for the kids to do.”
“It’s very cool,” the first person declared. She asked the Parks team which elements were the most expensive; the answer boiled down to, a lot of mixing-and-matching is possible, depending on what people most want to see.
The first kids to speak up said they liked the orca climbing element the best. One also supported the crab. A mom said her two kids enjoy the climbing structures at Highland Park‘s new playground – Alspaugh said that was designed by the same company.
Another young attendee said she likes “climbing stuff” they best. Alspaugh promised her “climbing bars.” (That sentiment was echoed by another parent on behalf of their 8 1/2-year-old.)
Another mom wondered about rubberized cushioning under the play equipment, or wood chips. Alspaugh explained that the cushioning can be extremely expensive and also hardens over time. There’s now a new type of binder for the wood chips helping them stay together longer.
Also among the ~25 attendees, Fauntleroy Community Association president Mike Dey said he likes the marine theme, including the orca climbing structure. He asked about a specific area where the 4-foot-tall, 400-pound to-be-donated anchor would go (he was the first person contacted by the donor) – Alspaugh said they’re still contemplating possible locations – it would be have to set in concrete so there would be no chance someone would try to move it – maybe toward the south-center of the general area.
Taking the marine theme beyond the plans for panels and seashell molds, someone wondered about maybe marine-type fossils added, like some playgrounds that have dinosaur fossils.
More feedback favored Option 1.
Asked about the fate of the play area’s existing concrete-walled sand pit – which was pretty much voted off the island at the first meeting – Alspaugh said it wasn’t in the plan.
The proposed design feature of “twigs”/”sticks” (near the top of the tower in the Option 2 play structure) was suggested as something that could be tossed out in favor of more money being available for the orca climber.
Also noted: This site doesn’t have room for exercise equipment. There are safety standards applying to everything on the playground, “and we’re very strict about covering all the safety standards,” said Alspaugh.
She also said there’s a choice to be made between parent-and-baby side-by-side swings, or baby “bucket” swings – they could start with the latter and then switch to the former if people preferred, but they can’t mix-and-match. Kids’ opinions of these were asked too, and Alspaugh warned semi-sternly that the older kids will need to stay away because a 12-year-old got stuck in one once!
More families continued pouring in as the meeting continued. Every new arrival was invited to come up and show what s/he liked. One dad said “they all look amazing,” adding that it appeared there would be room for lots of kids to play. Maybe up to 80 at a time, Alspaugh suggested! And the spaciousness would be good news for one child who was worried about having to wait for her turn on some of the equipment.
Asked about the safety of the tall, long slide that either Option 1 or 2 would have, Alspaugh said it’s no problem for kids, but warned parents not to go down the slide with a child in their lap – that’s been resulting in lots of injuries across the country.
In further discussion of swing configuration, Alspaugh thought the pairs including baby swings might be something for the beach swing set. And more discussion ensued about whether four swings would be enough. (If you have an opinion on swings – how many, what kind – the Parks crew especially wants to hear from you ASAP!)
The crowd’s opinions:
-the (not-orange) net climber
-panels on the structure (they’re not expensive, Alspaugh said)
-some element in the paving
When they have a final design, they’ll post it online, and e-mail word of that to people who have participated. In the meantime, speak up – they hope to put this out to bid and start construction this summer, maybe even as soon as late spring – they will work with Parks event scheduling for “minimum impact” to surrounding areas. Construction will likely take about 70 working days – four to five months. Rockwell said there’s no way around the schedule even though they realize it’s not ideal. “We’re working in coordination … we’ll open it as soon as we can.” The picnic area and the pathway will be accessible throughout the summer. ADA pathway improvements also are planned but will be “done in a separate phase,” Rockwell said, “not at the same time” as the playground work, maybe later in the fall, after this is done.
For the new play area, a fall opening is most likely. And once this is open, it’s expected to last about 20 years – the old one fell a few years short of that because of the termites.
(And they recapped that EC Hughes, which had the same problem, is being redesigned and will be rebuilt too.)
TO SHARE YOUR OPINION: E-mail Rockwell, email@example.com