Parents for playgrounds: Become your local park's best friend As her children headed for the swings, the North Seattle mother glanced
appreciatively at a bright flower bed adjoining Maple Leaf playground,
then did a double take. The nodding purple flowers looked a lot like
digitalis, a toxic, even deadly, plant. A quick phone call alerted
Seattle Parks and Recreation, who confirmed that the plant had either
self-seeded or been planted by mistake. The digitalis was immediately
uprooted, leaving the park once again safe for inquisitive toddlers.
As a playground's most dedicated users, parents and kids can help
create and maintain terrific parks that benefit the entire community.
"Parks are the neighborhood's common backyard," says Pamela Kliment,
Neighborhood Matching Fund Planner for the Seattle Parks and Recreation
Department. "Adding play areas to places where they have not been gets
adults into the parks and that makes parks safer."
When parents want to renovate a playground, Kliment guides them through
the process. Truly labors of love, playground renovations require
raising a minimum of $350,000 -- plus $100,000 matching funds -- and
take approximately three years to complete.
Kliment helps groups create an action item list, plot fundraising
opportunities, contract a professional landscape architect through an
established City of Seattle process, evaluate play equipment companies
and facilitate installation. "Parents find that participating in this
process can be very empowering," she says. As open space in Seattle
rapidly disappears, many neighborhoods are creating small pocket parks
on one or two parcels of land. Kliment explains that these parks often
have non-traditional play equipment and bronze sculpture or other
features with high artistic quality so that they blend better into
Within Seattle, 103 parks have playgrounds, and every other nearby
community can boast of their own. Each municipality has its own Parks
Department (see below).
Here's how to help make local parks great:
email with reports of broken play equipment, graffiti, suspect
plantings, lack of curb cuts for wheelchair access or any other safety
Form a "Friends Of..."
group for your neighborhood playground. In Seattle, the Parks
Department provides "Friends Of..." groups with guidance and assistance.
Volunteer to help plant and maintain garden areas in a nearby park.
Launch a playground renovation project. Rules vary between municipalities. In
Seattle, Parks Department personnel offer assistance through every step
of this major undertaking, and matching funds are available through the
Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.
Alert Parks Department personnel to remaining neighborhood open space that might be suitable for a small pocket park.
Follow newspaper stories covering playground renovation projects, and help out
by donating money, time or both. Many playground projects have
auctions, buy a tile fundraisers, work parties and so on. Friends of
Ravenna Playground recently held an affinity shopping day at Whole
Foods Market during which anyone grocery shopping that day
automatically donated to the project.
Advocate for what you believe is missing in current parks. Parents of Seattle
skateboarders, for example, formed Parents for Skate Parks and work
diligently (and successfully) to ensure that playground fun is not
limited to the stroller set.
Tell city council representatives and the mayor that you care about parks and playgrounds. Vote "Yes" on future parks levies.
Visit playgrounds throughout the region and use parks frequently. Ask kids
what they like and don't like in these playgrounds. Help them dream big
-- then organize and advocate to make those dreams come true.
Bellevue Parks and Recreation
Edmonds Parks and Recreation
Issaquah Parks and Recreation
Kenmore Parks and Recreation
Kirkland Parks and Recreation
King County Parks
Lynnwood Parks and Recreation
Mercer Island Parks and Recreation
Redmond Parks and Recreation
Renton Parks and Recreation
Seattle Parks and Recreation
Seattle Parks Foundation
Sammamish Parks and Recreation
Shoreline Parks and Recreation
Vashon Parks and Recreation
Woodinville Parks and Recreation
Pamela Kliment can be contacted directly at 206-684-7556 regarding Seattle playgrounds.
writes frequently about parks and park history, and with her three
children has explored parks and playgrounds throughout the Puget Sound