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What's next for Reynolds Park?

This picture was posted on a wonderful blog called Play Scapes.
The design comes from a company for natural playground design called Earth Scape.
The new landscaping around the playground at Reynolds Park will include some small hills and berms
 with lots of playable potential!

The first meeting about Reynolds Playground was in the winter. There had been a thaw that left a crust of ice over a muddy mess between the trees along the East Dayton side of Reynolds Park. I was there with my young kids and was pondering the construction of The Constellation across from the Park. I thought, "This park is a little embarrassing. I wonder who is going to live in those nice-looking apartments? This is a prime location, everyone is so excited about East Washington development, shouldn't this park be so much cooler than this?"

I'm only 3.5 years in to the "tour of playgrounds" that is parenting, yet Reynolds playground was obviously pretty lame.

Not even a week later I saw a notice for the initial meeting, held at Lapham School, to discuss the "improvement" of Reynolds playground. A typical (read somewhat meager) number of neighbors were at the meeting and we quickly realized we were of a pretty similar mind: we wanted wood-chips (not old tires) for the surfacing, we wanted play structures geared toward "everyone," meaning equipment that you didn't outgrow at age 5, and we wanted something different.

We were gently reminded that Madison has a lot of parks to maintain (the most per capita in the U.S.) and a lot of playgrounds. In fact, 7.4 playgrounds per 10,000 residents. These figures are for park playgrounds and do not include school playgrounds. 

A small group of us stayed on the job, worked with our Parks rep, and selected equipment from the options given and the budget allowed. We think our neighbors will be pleased. But we are more excited, I think, about the ways the playground area will be re-landscaped to include some slopes, berms and boulders.

We'd been asking for a big hill. Alas, we learned a lot about working within City limits.We are forever grateful for the generous and insightful assistance we got from a local business, the landscape architecture team of Ken Saiki Design. Ken and his assistant Sylvia Janicki drafted drawings of improvements that were taken very seriously by the team of City and Parks folks and helped our cause enormously.

Reynolds Playground is now torn up and we understand the new slides and swings are on their way. Meanwhile, there is construction seemingly everywhere and new neighbors filling into our our urban neighborhood.

In mid-August, a group of neighbors gathered to think about what comes next. At the block party in July, folks were invited to write down what they wanted to "see more of" and "do more of" at Reynolds Park on paper scrolls. The responses ranged, but it was notable that people wanted events, activities, and reasons to gather. Things like movies in the park, concerts, and potato sack races (I don't actually think sac races was on the list, but someone out there must be longing for an old-fashioned field day?!?).

Which brings me back to that hill we wanted instead of an icy puddle. The vision was actually for a hill with steps carved into it to create a useful, amphitheater-like seating for watching ultimate Frisbee games in the field, chatting with other parents while kiddos play, or enjoying an evening concert or film. The idea comes from the gut-feeling that the park is ripe to be so much more for our neighborhood.

We are working now toward that vision. We want to start with a Park Kiosk. It should be beautiful and unique. It should offer general information about when pick-up games are played and when the next block party is scheduled. And it should identify Reynolds Park as a community park with energy and room for all sorts of play.

I love parks because they are public resources and open space for relaxation, art, performance, cook-offs and potato sack races. Already, just talking about parks, I've met so many new neighbors!

Thanks to my neighbors, friends and collaborators in this work Sara CC, Cheryl B, and Tyler L!


  1. As someone who has been hanging out a fair amount at Reynolds Park lately, I've been watching the changes and can't wait to see the new playground (even though I don't have kids). I'm excited for a bulletin board that will allow me to connect to other neighbors!

    1. Thanks Breanna! I'll keep using the blog as a place for sharing news and rallying energy. If you have ideas or want to be part of the process, we're happy to have more people helping and totally welcome ideas from folks who use the park! A non-parent perspective is also very welcome!