It was great to see the latest new play area open in Alexandra Park last week.
Many of us gained a newfound appreciation of our parks during the long months of lockdown. For those with a small garden, or no garden at all, they were a lifeline.
That goes double for parents with small children who need opportunities to run around and burn off all that energy. For them, the children’s play areas within our parks are really important. Families have flocked to them once they were re-opened after the toughest period of lockdown restrictions.
Play areas do need a constant cycle of maintenance though. The equipment – although incredibly robust – does suffer from wear and tear over time. Sadly, some can be the subject of vandalism. And the thinking around the best practice for play areas changes over time.
Many of the items of equipment that were around when I was young wouldn’t be allowed now for safety reasons. The “Witch’s Hat” was removed from playgrounds in the 1980s because it “had a high risk of inflicting lethal injury”. Playgrounds, unbelievably, used to have hard, concrete surfaces. They were replaced by woodchips but these too are now falling out of fashion.
This is why we are undertaking a gradual programme of replacement and renewal of the play areas in our parks.
Alexandra Park is just the latest over the last couple of years following Christchurch Park, Dumbarton Road, Maple Park, and St Augustine’s Rec.
All the current thinking on play is incorporated with many different types of equipment, springy safety surfaces, and bright colours and graphics to encourage imaginative play.
For the first time at Alexandra Park, we’ve also included an electric point to avoid engine idling from traditional ice cream vans. This will not only lead to carbon savings but also cleaner air from eliminating smelly diesel emissions.
I walked past a number of our play areas over the weekend, and all were well used despite the unseasonably cold weather – the children were having a great time.
We will continue to invest in our play areas as finances allow us to ensure they can be enjoyed by generations of children to come too.