Ample And Acessible

The swings present another challenge for the park district. Residents typically want more swings, which take up additional space and increase the amount of safety surfacing required, as well as an added expense. The arch swings are connected together into one large unit, including two bays of 6- to 12-year-old swings, two bays of preschool swings (with one accessible bucket seat), and one tire swing at the center, which is a huge space saver as it can accommodate more than one child at a time. By customizing all of the swings, the park district decreases the amount of space the swings require.

In the center of the playground, a sitting plaza provides both a space for adults to observe the children, as well as a means of separating the age groups on the playground equipment. The ADA-accommodating site amenities include two recycled plastic game tables, two recycled plastic picnic tables, a custom circle bench, and two trees with tree grates. There are also several recycled plastic benches located along the edges of the playground to ensure ample

A 12-foot-high pyramid net climber with four net bridges is the focal point of Elmhurst Park District's Wilder Park in Illinois.

A 12-foot-high pyramid net climber with four net bridges is the focal point of Elmhurst Park District’s Wilder Park in Illinois.

seating for adults, and bike racks at the entrance to encourage a more active lifestyle. Short-living, fast-growing trees like Quaking Aspen and Cotton-less Cottonwood were planted within the playground for fast, natural shade, allowing the district to save money by not needing to use built structures, such as gazebos or shade sails. In a breeze, the movement of the leaves adds an audio effect to the play area. Also, the trees will have reached the limits of their lifespan when the playground is replaced in 20 years so the trees can be recycled into mulch for the new planting beds, adding to the site’s sustainability.

Solid Footing

Although poured-in-placed rubberized safety surfacing is more expensive to install, the maintenance of wood mulch far exceeds the labor cost savings to provide ADA accessibility. A light color mix of green, tan, and terra cotta helps decrease the heat-island effect, and ensures the surfacing doesn’t become too hot and burn playground users’ bare feet. Parents also love the surfacing because their children do not come home “dirty.” In areas where the poured-in-place doesn’t back up to a concrete border, the edges are sloped at a 45-degree angle under the sod to hold it in place (with the gravel base too).

In high-traffic areas such as the end of slides and under the swings where poured-in-place tends to deteriorate, safety tiles were used to improve ease of maintenance. The worn tiles can be easily popped out and replaced. The safety tiles were installed on concrete pads instead of a gravel base to allow for increased stability and decreased shifting and warping.

The success of a project is based on how much it is used. Not only are Elmhurst residents pleased, but people from neighboring communities travel to experience the new playground as well. Regardless of the weather, the WilderPark playground is a “kid magnet,” and someone is always there enjoying its ample and accessible amenities.

Jerry Pask, ASLA, RLA, CPRP, CPSI, is the Landscape Architect/Park Planner for the Elmhurst Park District. Reach him at (630) 993-8939 or jpask@epd.org.

Colleen McCarty, ASLA, is the Assistant Park Planner for the Elmhurst Park District. Reach her at (630) 993-4729 or cmccarty@epd.org.

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About the Kids Around the World

Kids Around the World, Inc. (KIDS) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping children and families who have been affected by war, poverty, illness, and natural disasters. The home office is in Rockford, Ill.

According to the organization’s website:

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