Monday, August 26, 2013

Playground Reviews: Kelly Road Park; Forest Hills Park

Both of these parks were recommended to us by friends of ours. (By the way...I'm only saying that because I'm giving both playgrounds good-to-decent scores. If I was going to give one of them a bad score, then no need for me to shame them, anonymously or not. "Our friend said we would like this playground here, but it sucked! So, thanks for nothing." I wouldn't do that, because I actually appreciate all of your recommendations.)

Kelly Road Park - Kelly Road (duh), Apex, NC
Visited: August 14, 2013 | Google Street View

Summary: This playground - not be labeled on Google Maps, by the way - is one of our favorites. This wasn't our first visit, and it won't be our last. But it has one tragic flaw that will ultimately keep it from attaining the #1 ranking...

Things for Marla to do: 11/14. For a climber like Marla, this playground is perfect. It doesn't just have one or two small-ish playground sets with a couple of stairs, slides, and whatnot. This place is a maze, and an extensive one at that. It's awesome.

In terms of things to climb, places to explore, and such, I haven't seen a more expansive playground. It's fantastic. I recommend bringing both parents to the park, though, because with just one parent, you might lose track of your child.

And, of course, there are swings. Gotta have swings, because that's where we spend most of our playground time these days.

Uniqueness: 9/10. Like I said, I haven't seen another playground like it, yet. Also: much of the equipment is made out of wood, not plastic, which is pretty unusual these days. ... Well, it could actually be plastic that's made to look and feel like wood. I didn't analyze the materials that closely. Either way, it's different, because pretty much EVERY playground is made out of plastic these days. The wood - fake or not - also lended itself well to the overall "castle" theme of the place.

Of course, the slides themselves are plastic, because a wooden slide wouldn't be very comfortable. I'm talking about the general construction and frame. That's wood, or at least fake wood.

Upkeep: 3/10. Here we go. Now...the problem with wood over plastic, and the reason why most playgrounds are plastic these days, is that it's harder to maintain, and looks more "run down" up close. I don't know if this playground is actually any older than any of the plastic ones, but it looks older.

But, I'm actually not holding that against them here. The reason I'm giving such a low "upkeep" score is the trash. I've seen more trash here than I have at any other playground I've reviewed to date. And, that was true both times we've been here, so we didn't just pick a bad day, either. It's too bad.

Crowd: 6/10. Really not sure what to do here. Both times we've been here, it was early morning - like, 8 or 9 AM - and the playground was pretty empty both times. Obviously, a playground is going to be less crowded in the morning, especially on a Wednesday morning*. But is that indicative of the typical crowd this park gets? Hard to know for sure. By the time we left, it was starting to fill up, although still well short of capacity. So, I think 6/10 is about right. That's about average.

(* - If you're wondering why we were visiting a playground on a Wednesday morning, she was sent home sick from day care on that Tuesday, and wasn't allowed back to day care until Thursday due to standard protocol (have to wait 24 hours), even though she felt fine on Wednesday itself.)

Marla enjoyment: 5/5. Marla's first 5 out of 5! In case you're wondering what it takes to attain a Marla score of 5, basically, we have to stay there for over an hour (check), she has to be entertained throughout (check), not want to leave when it's time to leave (check), and generally just have lots and lots of fun throughout our visit (check). Watching your kids have fun is the best.

TOTAL: 34/49, ranked 2nd out of 10. Just one point behind Pullen Park. So close! And all they really have to do to become #1 is pick up some of the trash.


Forest Hills Park - University Drive, Durham, NC
Visited: August 24, 2013 | Google Street View

Summary: Believe it or not, this is actually the first City of Durham managed playground that I've reviewed. Do Durham's playgrounds match up against those of Raleigh, Cary, and Apex? (Generally speaking, no...but not by too wide of a margin.)

Things for Marla to do: 7/14. One playground set and a couple of sets of swings normally wouldn't score all that high by themselves...

...but this playground also has a water spray area. It actually took Marla a surprisingly long time to warm up to the water area, which is why I don't have a picture of her playing in it. We thought the water play would be a slam dunk. Oh well. Maybe we've over-exposed her to it. (It's become a weekly thing at day care.)

I also thought the water area could have been better designed. It's not self-contained; some of the water makes it beyond the boundaries of the designated "water play area" and into the grass. Which, I guess isn't a bad thing if you like your kids playing in the mud... (Yeah, I know, kids are going to get dirty. But still. They could have designed it better.)

Uniqueness: 5/10. The water spray area gets most of the credit in this category. Everything else on the playground is pretty standard, although not overly so. In other words, there are a couple of little things on the playground that you don't see everywhere, such as little musical instruments.

Upkeep: 7/10. The playground is in pretty good shape. This is not an "inner city" park whose better days are behind it. The city is definitely working to keep this playground up to shape, and somewhat trash free. (Although I've noticed that pretty much every playground has SOME trash.) Also, they get credit for the rubber surface upon which the playground sits, which we prefer over mulch. (Most places use mulch, but some have rubber, and that's nice.)

I should mention that the other features of the park, such as the picnic area and the bathrooms, are not in as good a condition as the playground. But my reviews only concern the playground.

Crowd: 4/10. When we got there, the crowd was more like a 3; then, by the time we left, it had thinned out to a 5. So, split the difference? In addition to the people on the playground, there was also a large group of people having a cookout in the picnic area. I don't factor picnickers into the crowd rating if they're not on the playground, but it did force us into the overflow parking, which might count for something.

Marla enjoyment: 3/5. We stayed for over an hour, and Marla didn't want to leave when we were done. Normally that would result in a 4 or 5, except for two things: 1) Due to the large crowd early on, it took Marla a pretty long time to start, you know, having fun. We almost bailed 15 minutes in. 2) Marla actually spent most of her time doing things completely unrelated to the playground, such as eating an apple, and following a puppy around.

TOTAL: 26/49, ranked 5th out of 10. Decent, but probably not high enough to warrant a return visit, at least in the short term. scores aren't necessarily correlated with the likelihood of a return visit. For example, Amber has taken Marla back to the RDU Observation Park, even though that park only scored a 25. That park is kind of different, though. And, airplanes have been a recent obsession of Marla's. Any time we're outside and we hear an airplane, Marla points up and says, "airplane!" (Or, more accurately, "ee-pee".) Seriously, she can detect them better than we can. It's uncanny.

Finally, since I have 10 playground reviews under my belt now, I've decided to post my Google Spreadsheet with all of my rankings in it. A link is now over there on the right under "The Good Stuff", or you can click here.

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