Climbing and spinning at South Lynnwood Park's new playground. Credit: Natasha Dillinger
You know we’re in a Seattle heat wave when even our favorite wading pools and spray parks can’t tempt my kids outdoors. Luckily, on a recent hot day, I had an ace up my sleeve.
The newly opened South Lynnwood Park playground not only offers novelty, it’s also in the shade! We headed over to check it out and enjoyed the blissfully cool play area for nearly two hours.
Proof that less is more
The new playground’s strength lies in its lack of gimmicks: You won’t find zip lines, flashy colors or a showroom of different structures. A few key pieces and nature-inspired touches — including the softest turf I’ve ever laid bare toes on — invite kids to make up their own fun.
You can’t help but notice the beautifully unique two-story tree house that serves as a launching point for all kinds of imaginary games. My 3-year-old peeped through the portholes to watch for pirates, while my 6-year-old slid down the fire pole to safety after baby dragons (also known as wobbly-legged toddlers) “attacked” her castle’s turret.
While there isn’t a dedicated toddler area, those “baby dragons” found plenty of entertainment climbing the tree house’s lower level and slipping down a smaller metal slide. On the playground’s opposite side, a bed of river rocks offers a spot for sensory play. A ground-level set of drums makes for musical fun — or climbing fun, according to my son.
At first, my daughter was disappointed not to find any of her favorite monkey bars, but the obstacle course provided similar upper-body challenges with more opportunities for problem-solving. It was harder for my son to find something he could do on the climber, but eventually he and a new friend figured out how to twirl each other on the spinner attachment.
Mural, mural on the wall
One of my least favorite playground tasks is endlessly pushing a swing. It’s not such a chore, however, when the swing bank rests in front of artist Gabrielle Abbott’s stunning mural titled "Grateful Steward." I almost welcomed a few extra minutes of pushing so I had time to examine it more closely. A loving pair of hands encircle plants and animals sacred to Coast Salish Tribes, depicting how we are both a part of nature and its caretakers.
Abbott worked with a variety of partners for inspiration, including Michael Evans, the chair of the Snohomish Tribe, and students from College Place Elementary (located a mile from the park) and Edmonds College. I loved hearing my daughter name some of the plants she recognizes from our summer hikes — maybe she was listening after all?
Oh, and those swings? Two of them are an accessible style that I hadn’t seen before. They recline farther than a typical swing and have a secure-looking harness so everyone can lean back and admire the artwork. (Note that the surface under the swings is wood chips, which makes wheelchair access trickier.)
A community invitation
The mural isn’t the only spot you’ll notice a sense of community. South Lynnwood Park is the only active park in this diverse neighborhood, where some 2,000 residents live within a 10-minute walk of the park. Funding from the Trust for Public Land, along with multiple grants, was key in creating a gathering space for everyone.
We watched a large group of seniors playing an animated game of pickleball on the resurfaced tennis courts. Word is that Washington state Sen. John Lovick plans to donate pickleball equipment to the Lynnwood Library to lend to the public, in order to introduce more people to the newly inaugurated state sport.
Families will also find basketball courts and an urban-sized turf soccer field (which looks deceptively like an off-leash dog park — thank goodness for the signs), plus a giant multi-purpose lawn. Note to self: Bring a ball or Frisbee next time.
A large picnic shelter with four tables and a couple of grills sits at the terminus of an ADA-accessible pathway, adjacent to the lawn and duck pond. If your kids prefer a more dramatic party entrance, they can take the double-wide slide from the playground to the grass. Want to feel like you’re camping? Wander into the trees beyond the spring rider to find a couple more shaded tables.
The bottom line
Friendly other families, a shady play area and amenities such as picnic tables and clean restrooms made South Lynnwood Park a lovely place to spend a toasty morning. Pack up your picnic and lawn games, and put this new playground on your route.
If you go …
Hours: Lynnwood parks are open daily from dawn to dusk.
Parking and facilities: Since this park is situated within walking distance for many resident families, you won’t find a dedicated parking lot. Limited street parking is available. Single-stall restrooms outfitted with changing tables are next to the playground, and a water fountain with a bottle-filling station is available on the opposite side of the building.
Pack: The lawn is huge and affords sightlines to the playground, so pack a ball or Frisbee to extend the outing. Lots of picnic tables make this a great lunch spot as well.
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