10-19-20 | Feature

Connecting Play and History

Mindowaskin Park, Westfield, NJ
by Sarah Lisiecki - Photos are Courtesy of Katie Lousier, BCI Burke

Within Mindowaskin Park in Westfield, NJ, there are nine lantern post toppers that were custom designed by BCI Burke's engineering and design teams for this project. The posts were added to further expand on the Victorian era theme. The flow of the lamp system allows kids to imagine walking through the streets of a town in that time. They are made of routed two-color HDPE and span between 15 and 20 feet from the ground.
The designers of the playground chose to use a coloration pattern on the structure and surfacing that includes redwood, black, gray, tan and olive. These colors were chosen to reinforce the historic theme while the surfacing colors were selected to complement the playground and blend into the surrounding community and park setting. The rock and tree stump play and seating features are constructed of glass fiber reinforced concrete to replicate the look and feel of real rock and wood.
The play area has a use zone of 177' x 118' according to the standards set by the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) International. The overall height of the playground is 20'9". As a component to the inclusivity of the playground, accessibility ramps were placed at different points around the structure. The double wide ramps are 67-1/2" wide and constructed from heavy-duty punched steel with California compliant vinyl coating that is free of lead and other hazardous heavy metals.
There are 74 play events in the entire play area, that includes two play structures, a three-bay swing set and two freestanding spinning events including the REV8 Rotating Climber seen here in the foreground. The main objective in choosing these events was to create an inclusive space for users of all ages and abilities with a variety of spinning, swinging, climbing, interactive and sliding experiences.
The play structures were designed for two different age groups (2-5 and 5-12). The design team carefully chose age appropriate play features that give kids a variety of options to help them develop physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially. Several custom HDPE and full-color Dibond panels reinforce the Victorian theme while providing extra imaginative play value. The structures are surrounded by poured-in-place rubber that was chosen for safety, accessibility and aesthetics. The surfacing colors are black for 2,800 square feet, tera-cotta beige blend for 800 square feet and a beight/black/brown blend for 8,700 square feet. The different colors provide a visual pathway throughout the play space.
The sign installed is 68" tall and 21-1/8" wide with a printed Dibond piece (artwork area is about 16" x 25-3/4") sandwiched in a steel powder coated frame. The custom sign is made by the playground manufacturer along with an outside print vendor for the Dibond printed piece. The graphic design team created the artwork for the custom signs and panels throughout the playground. The town of Westfield provided the donor messaging and logo for the welcome inscription. There are two other custom designed signs that designate the two different age group areas.

Located in Westfield, NJ, a town of 30,000 residents in Union County, about 25 miles from Manhattan, Mindowaskin Park is a spacious destination park that celebrates and teaches the rich history of this area. With precise details at every turn, this park transports visitors back to the Victorian Era with streetlights and architecture, big hats, suits and umbrellas. Combining a plethora of imaginative play opportunities with spinning, sliding and climbing creates unmatched play variety that draws children of all abilities into this space and changes the way they experience their local park. From the bridge to the light fixtures to the drinking fountain and playground, this park connects history to a place the community can come to gather, play and move in.

One of the goals in designing this space was to enhance the neighborhood greenspace offering and develop a play space that complemented the local ambience. Surrounded by gabled roofs, decorative trim, large porches and asymmetrical shapes, the same beautiful, Victorian-inspired designs adorn the play towers. The "streets" are even lit with lampposts that mirror the local style. As you flow through the village, multiple custom photo opportunity panels offer children the ability to imagine themselves in a whole new way, complete with characters in period dress. Designers at BCI Burke worked with the landscape and playground designers of Ben Schaffer Recreation, the Westfield Recreation Department, and friends of Mindowaskin Park to ensure the play environment remained historically accurate and aligned with the town's social culture.


Getting into the space is easy with double-wide ramps that, not only offer access, but also help to create town squares and direct the flow of traffic to areas where all children can be front and center to the main attractions. The space is designed to be equitable with multiple access points to each of the most exciting play components. There is a Volta® Inclusive Spinner where nine children can spin at the same time and users can transfer from their mobility devices to experience the joy of spinning. A Cruiser™ Wheelchair Rocker that offers the opportunity for mobility devices to park inside the rocker and be part of the motion that helps children develop proprioception, core strength, and balance. The REV8 combines climbing and spinning so children of different levels can play in the same space and all be challenged at their individual levels. Then there's Novo® Playful Furniture. Novo shifts of the paradigm of playground seating and offers a place for caregivers to sit comfortably inside the realm of play while also being a place for children to climb and explore. This multi-functional piece is perfect for enhancing user experience and fostering intergenerational engagement. Caregiver comfort is important because the more comfortable they are, the more time the children can spend playing - which means more socialization, development and fun.

Color is key to any environment and a play space is no different. With a mostly natural color theme and splashes of color sprinkled throughout for interest, this play environment invites children in to experience all of the benefits of play and appreciate the unique history of their community. As play and history intersect at Mindowaskin Park, children, families, and community members will learn, play, and grow together for many years to come.

Team list:
Ben Shaffer Recreation Inc., design & supply
Corby & Associates, installation & site work
BCI Burke Company, playground equipment
Victor Stanley, benches & trash receptacles


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