Envisioning a Town Green: A More Accessible Playscape

Part eight of a nine part series on the proposed town green on Railroad Avenue.

Playground in Dallas Texas in 1909.

Children are filled with energy and curiosity and playgrounds have long been used to express both. The intent and use of playgrounds has shifted over the years. From sand gardens with athletic instructors to enclosed spaces for small children, as the needs and interests of society have shifted, so have our outdoor spaces.

What’s appropriate for the future town green on Railroad Avenue? Tucker is home to a dozen parks with swimming pools, tennis courts, community gardens, trails, and a variety of playgrounds. The growing success of these other spaces enables designers of the town green property to focus on needs specific to the downtown core.

What does Downtown Tucker need in terms of a playground? With a high school on one end and a middle school on the other, the character of the area should remain youthful. A traditional playground isn’t needed to achieve that goal. If a playground is to be considered for the town green, what could it look like and how would it fit into a space in a way that supports rather than distracts from downtown businesses?

Attractions like those at Peters Park, Kelly Cofer Park, or Henderson Park would not be right for Downtown Tucker. If a designated playscape is to be added to the town green, it would need to be on a more accessible scale and a space that could have an alternate use.

One example comes from Alys Beach on 30A in Florida. Fonville Park is a small playscape with low rolling hills covered in artificial grass with a few elements for sitting or climbing. The Park includes public art in the form of sculptures of rabbits and carrots. To keep children from running off, the area is surrounded by landscaping with dense bushes and trees.

“Chauncey” sculptures by Jim Budish 2020 in Fonville Park, Alys Beach, Florida
Fonville Park, Alys Beach, Florida. Select image for more photos of Alys Beach.

A similar example is currently under construction on 10th Street in Midtown. Rather than being surrounded by luxury vacation homes, the park is adjacent to high rises where residents lack immediate access to green space.

In Tucker the downtown core is not home to high density residential or luxury vacation homes, but the more refined low maintenance concept could work well when adjusted for Tucker’s needs. Rather than installing fencing or landscaping to keep children out of the street, start by keeping the playscape away from the street.

Conceptual rendering of play area adjacent to trail on proposed town green. Select image for a larger view.

This concept for Tucker does that by placing it on the north side of the property. It’s also located near the restrooms, a place parents with small children visit often. There are no ropes, swings, wood chips, or slides. No obstacles to walking. No places to hide out of reach. Just a few bolder like structures and artificial mounds for sitting or climbing. One might not even recognize it as a play scape if they didn’t know. It could just as easily be seen as interactive public art and a space to sit while waiting on a friend.  

It doesn’t obscure the view or the line of sight along the trail, and there is no queue to be “next” through a tube, down a slide, or in the water. In other words, it avoids all the things that can make a good parent tired.

Conceptual rendering of playscape on proposed town green.

A playground is low on the list of wants for this project. There are plenty of other places in Tucker for parents to take their children to get them ready for a good night’s sleep. Or they can be old fashioned and run, skip, hop, and jump on the town green lawn.

Unlike an open lawn that can be used for nearly endless purposes, once a playground is built the space is now limited to just one purpose. On the other hand, if there is going to be a playscape, it shouldn’t come from a catalog. It should be a custom design that answers all the challenges mentioned above and more.

[Please note that the images on this site related to the town green are for discussion purposes only. A final design has not been selected by the City Council. The Council is expected to make a decision on implementation later this year following inclusion of additional public input and recommendations from Barge Design Solutions.]

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