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Park Advocacy

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 their surroundings.

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: Call or email with reports of broken play equipment, graffiti, suspect plantings, lack of curb cuts for wheelchair access or any other safety concern. 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.


Paula Becker writes frequently about parks and park history, and with her three children has explored parks and playgrounds throughout the Puget Sound region.

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