Connecting Pathways And Pocket Parks

There are several benefits for this, including decreasing the sheer number of children centralized on one large playground, increasing cardiovascular health since users opt to travel to the next exciting venue, and giving parents the option to actively participate in play or take a much-needed break without fear of losing track of little Suzy.

“Pathways to Play provides a new, linear form of play environment different to the clustered playground of manufactured play equipment,” Robin Moore says.

“The linear form makes it easier to include play pockets and to mix specially designed, commercially manufactured components with natural elements to encourage discovery and continuous movement.”

Big Butterflies, Trees, And Trails

Consider the butterfly metamorphosis playground located along a trail adjacent to the Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center complex in Springfield, Mo.

“The butterfly play pocket is a good example because it reinforces something that is already going on in the gardens, which have a greenhouse with butterflies inside,” Robin Moore relates.

“When children are navigating around the greenway, they come across this large-scale play pocket that represents the lifecycle of a butterfly. The chrysalis, larvae, and butterfly–which is a sculptural piece children can climb on and inside of it.”

The butterfly information is enhanced further with educational panels to inform parents and provide simple messages for children.

“It is easily attractive as a play destination because it is colorful, slide-able, climbable, sit-able; there is a cubby hole, and children can play inside and look out of it,” Moore continues. “It is a multifaceted play environment setting for children to explore.”

Another play pocket features large trees tucked into a wooded setting that children can climb.

“The interpretive boards share educational fun facts and activities as well as encourage the kids to try the activities while playing,” says Lisa Moore.

The combination of various views for kids and the mixing up of cozy spaces and open play areas brings a sense of adventure and discovery to the pathway.

Your Pocket Plan

Some early adopters of this new way of thinking are South Creek Linear Park in Springfield, Mo., Riverpoint Park in Tennessee Riverpark, Chattanooga, Tenn., and Hinshaw Greenway in Cary, N.C.

“Rather than adult-oriented pathways, each of these areas has attractive play opportunities,” Robin Moore says. “It is important to consider how the pathways can be configured in urban parks, especially in the larger parks, with a network of pathways to different destinations.”

To begin considering this new approach, review what your park already has available. Are there greenways? Are there elements such as greenhouses, fountains, water playgrounds, schools, a neighborhood, etc., that attract people?

Next, develop a community of people including park supporters and local interest groups that represent children and families.

“Send out messages to people, and have everything online,” says Robin Moore.

“And start asking questions. Find out whether or not they use the trail system. Why not? What would it take to get them to use it? Is it friendly towards bikes? Is it safe? Start building a connection to the communities, and create a discussion of the community level, and then bring the idea to the park advisory board.”

If funds are tight, host a landscape design competition through the state chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects. Plus, since the play pockets can be developed one piece at a time, the start-up costs are reduced.

Focus instead on installing a series of play pockets over the course of several years, with the primary goal of connecting where people live and making the trail a part of everyday life.

Tammy York is the owner of LandShark Communications LLC which specializes in media and public relations for outdoor recreation businesses. Her book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati, is available online and in bookstores. You can reach her at tammy@landsharkcommunications.com.

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Related posts:

  1. Pathways For Play Webinar
  2. Playground Safety
  3. A Playground For All
  4. KaBOOM! Says Boo To Scary Playgrounds
  5. A Green Way To Play

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