A look at the evolution of Calgary’s playgrounds 

These aren’t your parents’ playgrounds.

Calgary’s outdoor play areas are pushing the boundaries on safety, interactivity and, most importantly, fun, say local experts.

“The best ones for this are ones that are unique, so kids can ask for them by name,” said Dana Wheatley, an experiential playground expert and mom of three young children. “A great example of this is Parkdale’s Helicopter playground.”

Wheatley runs the popular website CalgaryPlaygroundReview.com, which highlights many of the city’s best playgrounds.

APPLESTONE_PARK_1In her travels, she’s found the good one are not only in high-demand for children, but are equally coveted by their homebuying parents.

“A number of different people have told me that the playground in their community was a big factor in where they bought their house,” said Wheatley.

Park N Play Design Co. Ltd. president Michelle Clark agrees that playgrounds in the city are becoming destinations. Her Rocky View County-based company, which has designed and installed numerous playgrounds across the province, including more than five dozen in Calgary alone, recently constructed a dinosaur-themed playground that included some interpretive signs worded for children.

The company is currently installing a playground in the northwest community of Hawkwood that will include a representation of a Hawk’s nest.

CAPITOL_HILL_1“Every community wants their playground to be unique,” said Clark. “They don’t want a cookie-cutter design like the one two blocks over.

“(Yesterday’s playground) used to be a swing, slide, and merry-go-round, and we called it good. When I was a young girl, we even had that red shale, which I think is still embedded in my knees.”

In addition to uniqueness, today’s playgrounds are increasingly being designed to meet the physical, communicative, social, emotional and sensory needs of children, while also encouraging the positives of side-by-side-play, added Clark.

She points to the new playground in Killarney on 29th Street S.W. that opened just last week, which it helped design and construct after a City of Calgary-led committee named ImagineParks identified the previous one in the community, as well as a number of others across the city, as unsafe.

CURRIE_BARRACKS_1While the City offered to originally replace the existing park, the Killarney-Glengarry Community Association also raised funds over the past year to update its design so the playground could be accessible not only to children with physical disabilities, but also for those with vision or social challenges.

They left space so wheelchairs could navigate in-between equipment, and installed creative areas such as a tracing table.

And instead of a traditional swing, they installed an arch swing with a round area that four or five children can sit in was chosen, to be more inclusive.

Killarney resident Carolyn Johnson, who was part of the volunteer committee, said they wanted the playground to be inclusive and accessible.

She added the goal was to create a playground that would be a destination for residents and a great addition to the community.