New play structure at Friendly Grove. Credit: Nikki McCoy
At Friendly Grove Park in Olympia, a new play structure quietly opened last month. While it wasn't the right moment for fanfare, local families have been discovering the improved playground and they are ready to play. Designed for kids ages 5–12, the new play set-up beckons kids to climb, use their imaginations and swing to their hearts' content.
On a recent visit, we found the new playground packed with fun elements such as a twisting slide, swings, giant chimes to pound with rubber mallets and spinning and climbing structures. In addition, there are inclusive play features such as poured-in-place rubber surfacing and an accessible molded swing.
The Friendly Grove playground improvement project began back in October of 2019 when the City polled community members on what they’d like to see in their neighborhood park. More than 200 residents responded to the poll.
“We posted five different concept designs,” explains project lead Tammy LeDoux with the City of Olympia. “We even added a few designs without traditional swings, just to see if the community might want to try an alternative to swings. Turns out, at least at this park, Olympia still values swings.”
With classics such as swings and a slide, and modern additions like the music-maker, the playground will entice all kinds of kids. The size and scale fit neatly within the park's design, and the framing of nearby trees and trails make it a focal feature while still blending into the surrounding nature. My family and I agreed that the new playground's fun colors and fresh new play equipment make it very inviting to kids.
Friendly Grove Park's other features include a mini skatepark, tennis court, walking trails and a covered shelter. These, along with the new-and-improved playground, accommodate families of all ages and interests.
On our visit, my teen son plugged in his latest podcast and took the dog for a walk, while my tween bounced between running around the playground and pushing his skateboard around the track. Nearby, a set of young brothers pumped as hard as they could on those asked-for swings, laughing and giggling as their toes pointed toward the sky.
While the City had hoped to hold a grand opening celebration, the community still has a lot to celebrate with this little park. The park and playground first opened in 2002 and soon became a well-loved Olympia favorite.
Visiting on a beautiful September day, it’s hard to imagine what the old playground looked like, with its weathered wood structure, dated design and sparse features. While Friendly Grove Park is a compact park, surrounded by forested wetlands, there’s still plenty of room to sprawl and explore. And now its playground is crisp, clean and bright, ready for the next generation of kids to play, learn and grow.
If you go...
Directions: Find Friendly Grove Park playground located at 2316 Friendly Grove Road N.E., Olympia. Take exit 105 from either direction of Interstate 5. The park is located just outside of some residential neighborhoods in East Olympia.
Parking: The immediate lot can get full during peak hours. Overflow parking is available, follow signs to Peace Lutheran Brethren Church just south of the park, then take the trail to the backside of the park. All parking is free.
Rules: Remember when visiting to practice safe social distancing and to adhere to mask requirements. Stay home if you or anyone in your family are sick. Detailed rules are posted on a sign at the park.
Fuel up: Grab some goodies from nearby San Francisco Street Bakery for a picnic or car snack.