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Public Space for Play

This is a fairly boring playground. But there is money coming from the development you can see in the background to make it better. The neighborhood turnout to the first meeting was small but a few of us now call ourselves a committee to get it done. The first step is to work with the City to select the play structure. Then it's up to us to be creative, resourceful, and tenacious so that the public space becomes a unique and playful destination for neighbors and visitors.

From the Project for Public Space:

Madison has more playgrounds per person than any other U.S. city! Twelve parks and seven playgrounds per 10,000 people. The city Parks Division is busy and lacks the human or financial resources to keep up with all this public space.

Before we select our play structure from the approved vendor (for ages 5-12), I suggest we make the outline of a plan for additional installations. We can set some money aside and do a lot with a little. There is great inspiration out there! Just google "German Playgrounds" and you'll want to book plane tickets for the whole family. A blog called Playscapes rounds up the latest.

I'm a longtime fan of the totally gorgeous crocheted playgrounds of Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam and the silly benches of Jeppe Hein, but what can we imagine, realistically, and what can we maintain?

Five Simple, Cheap, Fun ideas:

1. Use the trees: there are five fully established trees and 2 newer trees near the playground, (as well as a lot of chain link fence). Hang chimes or attach old pots and pans to make outdoor music (banging walls).

2. Use the ground: there is a corridor along the fence, beneath the trees. Lay stones, bricks, old tiles, or stump slices to create a labyrinth, maze, or fanciful trail.

3. Make benches social and fun: you know those colorful animals just inside the door at the Madison Children's Museum? Something like that, but weather-ready and able to be bolted down. Or something inspired by Jeppe Hein like this:

4. Embellish all that chain link: add some color or texture to the safety fence that runs the length of the park along Dayton Street. I understand that the fence is there to stay for now and that it's important for police and neighbors to be able to see through it in order to keep foul play in the park to a minimum. So decorate it. Create a fantastic archway over the entrance. Add a dragon or snake along the top, or a line of flowers made from scrap metal. Erika Koivunen is a metal artist who is building a sculpture now for the 600 block of Williamson...

5. Add food: the City has approved the planting of edible landscaping by volunteers in city parks! I'm thinking current bushes, tufts of chives, mint patches, maybe an apple tree. Why not!?! And then aim to create the city's longest dinner table at the 2014 Tenney Lapham block party!

These are just some ideas. Somewhere in all my reading I learned that the first playground was a pile of sand dumped into a town square to keep the street urchins out of trouble. I also read that the key to a great play space is to start with a hill. We have tennis courts on a roof....

Lastly, I say: More public art is always better! 

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