Council Corner: Modernizing Columbia’s Play Areas

I recently commissioned my five-year-old son to conduct an evaluation of the recently replaced Six Pence Tot Lot in Hickory Ridge. The renovation of this play area had been the subject of much controversy due to it being significantly larger and more expensive than the “Rascal” design that the Columbia Association had started using for most replacements. The evaluation process consisted of playing on the “Two Towers” structure, a brief test of the swing set, and a game of telephone with me using the talking tube, which was by far his favorite feature. Overall, my son gave the design two thumbs up, though he would have preferred the slides to be much taller and longer. This tot lot, like the “Rascal” designs, is geared for 2- to 5-year-olds, so my son is quickly outgrowing it.
When the Board approved the Six Pence Tot Lot renovation, it also directed CA to create a pilot program to re-imagine our system of play areas. As a result of the pilot program, a new play area policy and guidance was approved by the Board at this past April’s meeting. Based on this policy and guidance, replacement play area designs will feature much more variety, instead of being a set of mostly identical “Rascal” designs. This will allow for designs to feature different types of climbing features and include equipment that will appeal to 5- to 12-year-olds.

To ensure that each neighborhood has access to the wider range of tot lot designs, the policy directs CA to use geographical information system (GIS) tools to establish clusters of play areas within the same vicinity. The guidance also directs CA to work with village boards and solicit community feedback to influence the designs of replacement play areas. The goal is to develop play area replacement designs to better serve the neighborhoods that they are located in. I am excited to see how the re-imagining of our play areas will serve a wider range of ages and play styles. In addition to climbing structures, equipment that is sports oriented, fitness oriented, or even musically oriented could also be considered. The key is to re-imagine our play areas as a system that has a broader appeal in order to better serve the entire community.

Eric Greenberg is the River Hill Representative to
Columbia Council and the CA Board of Directors.
Disclaimer: This column reflects the views of Eric Greenberg only and not those of the CA Board or the River Hill Board of Directors.