by Yuliya Panfil
On Tuesday evening the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the Department of General Services (DGS) held a community update meeting on renovations to the playground and park near the Petworth Recreation Center (8th and Taylor Streets NW).
DPR plans to completely renovate both the little and big kids playgrounds, regrade the field and install a larger stage with a pavilion roof, upgrade the splash park, improve ADA access throughout the park, and install an outdoor teen hangout area with swings and other “passive movement” structures.
Bigger kids (ages 5-12) are getting a major upgrade with the new playground design. The current big kids playground has fallen into disrepair and is hardly used due to its awkward location by the street. As a result, the big kids play on what is supposed to be the little kids (ages 2-4) playground. Under the new park design, the two playgrounds will be arranged in close proximity, with a small seating area in between. The big kids playground will almost double in size to 4,000 square feet.
DGS is still on track to break ground on the renovations in late winter 2020, with a tentative completion date for Memorial Day weekend 2020. The playgrounds and field will be completely off-limits for the duration of the construction. The basketball and futsol courts will likely be accessible, as will the rec center.
I Studio Architects, the firm overseeing the redesign, presented playground renderings from two short-listed vendors and asked attendees to vote on which they preferred. Attendees expressed a strong preference for the first vendor, so that is who the architects will move forward with.
The “big kids” playground (for ages 5 - 12) will have three slides, a rope tunnel, several towers, a bouldering structure, and several swings. It will follow a nature theme and include overhead shade structures.
The “little kids” playground (for ages 2-4) will be adjacent to the splash park and will have three slides or four slides, several swings, ladders, and log structures to crawl through and walk over. It will also have a “selfie swing.”(Yes, that’s a thing.) Basically, it’s a swing with two seats that face each other, so that parents can swing alongside their toddlers instead of having to push them from behind.
Bear in mind that these are proposed renderings and the final product may not be exactly what is pictured here. The architects also said that they will tweak the color scheme to decrease the amount of brown.
Each playground will have a shade structure, either built in to the playground or as a standalone tensile canopy.
Community members engaged in a heated discussion ranging from playground surface covering (rubberized covering vs. wood chips) to fences, gates and trees. The surface-covering debate presents another area for input: DGS had planned to proceed with a rubberized poured in place (PIP) playground surface (same as the current playground service); however, multiple community members spoke up in favor of an Engineered Wood Fiber option (basically, wood chips).
PIP surfaces get hot and crumble, and there have been some concerns that PIP covering contains lead (a study to test this question is in process). On the other hand, wood fiber requires more maintenance and will get into kids shoes.
“We will follow up with the community based on their serious concerns over the playground surfacing material to be installed,” DPR project manager Peter Norhden said in an email. “DPR installs three types of approved playground surfaces which meet the fall requirements and ADA requirements. They are: Poured-in-Place rubber (PIP), Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) and artificial turf. Each has pros and cons. Based on evidence from over 100 playgrounds and looking back ten years we recommend PIP rubber in high traffic playgrounds in general.”
Do you have a preference for the designs? Email Peter Nohrden (email@example.com) with your views… but don’t wait too long because DPR and DGS plan to move quickly with starting construction.