Kids and adults work on envisioning new place to play
This week Denton kids helped the grown-ups design a new playground for South Lakes Park.
They brainstormed in small groups and drew pictures. They offered classic suggestions for playground play, such as swings and monkey bars. Their ideas showed they understood the scale of what will become the Eureka 2 playground. They asked for multi-person slides and rope climbs and trampolines. They said they took inspiration from trees and spaceships and from the Grand Canyon.
They also showed themselves to be kids of the 21st century, offering play themes based on the dystopian stories of the Hunger Games and on Minecraft. An online computer game, Minecraft is popular with children because it allows gamers to build a world of their own.
Second-grader Cleary Martinez said it would be great to see ideas like a zip line, which he submitted in his drawing, added to the new playground’s concept. He said he likes that the city is looking to upgrade the park and make it safer.
“The old park, every once in a while, parts of it nobody could go on them because they were falling apart, and they’re going to make it out of a different material so it probably won’t break as easy,” Cleary said. “It would be cool to have a new park, to have an even better one.”
Third-grader John Mangrum said the new playground will be awesome. He said he’d like to see an underground maze, a tower and a “wobbly bridge.” He said he looks forward to going there “straight away” as soon as it’s completed, and he’s also interested in volunteering to help with the project.
“I cannot wait,” he said.
Dennis Wille, with Play by Design in Ithaca, New York, was part of the team that designed Denton’s original Eureka playground 20 years ago. He returned to Denton on Thursday to begin the design of Eureka 2.
City parks employees and other volunteers assisted Wille by meeting with students at Sam Houston Elementary School and 13 other Denton schools during the day. They asked the students what they would like to see incorporated into the new playground.
The Denton Parks Foundation is helping the city replace the aging Eureka playground by raising money and recruiting volunteers to build a comparable project. They are estimating that the new playground will cost about $500,000, according to foundation director Molly Tampke. The plan includes recruiting hundreds of volunteers to help with construction, which is scheduled for November.
Wille also met with parents Thursday to discuss accessibility features for Eureka 2 so that it’s inclusive for all. Federal standards were still being developed at the time the original playground was erected, he said.
New federal standards also banned the type of treated wood that was used to build the original playground. Parks employees have been sealing the wood twice a year — an expensive process — to prevent it from leaching arsenic as the playground aged.
Wille received a lot of great input from students, he said.
“My task would be to include as much as I can … and things that are unique to Denton and North Texas,” he said. “We’re doing more than talking about building a playground. We’re talking about building the dreams of the children and building a stronger community in the process.”
He spent Thursday afternoon in front of a large table at the Civic Center working on a conceptual drawing. The new playground won’t have the same footprint as the old one, but it will be in the same area.
He unveiled the drawing Thursday night in front of an enthusiastic crowd of about 100 people, including many children. The concept included an 80-foot zip line, a monster truck, a tree house, a ship and a maze, along with many more of the children’s ideas.
Some of the people in the crowd raised their hand when Wille asked whether they were around when the first playground was built 20 years ago.
Items on the current playground that were personalized will be salvaged as the old playground is torn down, according to Emerson Vorel, the city’s parks director. The parks department is working out a plan that will allow people to claim pieces they personalized as mementos.
The concept drawing is the first step in the new design, Wille said. There will be more talks with parks officials before he produces the final design.
“Erasing is moving forward,” Wille said as he worked on the concept drawing Thursday afternoon. “You’re figuring out what to do next.”
For more information about Eureka 2, visit dentonparksfoundation.com or call the parks department at 940-349-7275.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 or via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.