05-26-22 | Department

Custom Inclusive California Playground

The perfect playground that the community and professionals alike can appreciate
by Amanda Carmichael

Completed in November 2019, Nealon Park in Menlo Park, California was designed by Landscape Architects, Gates and Associates and features GameTime play structures and outdoor fitness equipment to meet or exceed the ASTM American Standards for Testing Material guidelines for a more inclusive playground. The project is 15,000 square feet.
There are two main structures connected by the Half Dome Climber, one half of the structure is designed for 2 to 5-year-olds and other for 5- to 12-year-olds. The main structure was designed to accommodate intergenerational inclusive play design for kids and adults of all abilities.
The design includes Expression Swing Tandem so children and parents with toddlers can swing together and an Inclusive 70' El Capitan Track ride. The playground also includes several spinners and balancing pods, seating area and shade throughout.
This bus climber features a slide and overhead ladder that was designed for 2- to 5-year-olds to encourage imagination and socialization within a playground setting.
This bus climber features a slide and overhead ladder that was designed for 2- to 5-year-olds to encourage imagination and socialization within a playground setting.

GameTime works with landscape architects to create outdoor play structures that complement the natural landscape and bring visions to life. Their play structures and outdoor fitness products are innovative, fun, and modular. They are easily integrated with projects and provide play and activity areas that blend with a designed landscape.
The city of Menlo Park, California set out to create a custom, inclusive playground at Nealon Park. To understand the vision, The playground manufacturer and MRC Recreation met with the city parks department and members of the community and together planned the perfect playground that the community and professionals alike can appreciate.

Custom Playground Creations
The design team wanted input from the community for this project. After several public sessions, residents expressed their desire for a nature-themed playground. Naturally, the design team created a park that resembles Yosemite Park in Northern California. Many play elements that mirrored Yosemite were included in the design.

"After several group sessions with the city, we took the ideas to Landmark Design - our custom design team. They ran with it," Leo Seavey, MRC Recreation General Manager in California & Oregon said, "The public fell in love with the first run they did."

Designing an Inclusive Play Space
In addition to creating a custom-themed playground, the community wanted a fully inclusive destination. GameTime combined inclusive play products with the research found in Me2: 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design. Me2 is a comprehensive design guide published by PlayCore in partnership with Utah State University Center for Persons with Disabilities. The All Abilities Playground at Nealon Park was designed using the research from Utah State to address the needs of all people and all abilities.
PlayCore recognized Nealon Park as a National Demonstration Site (NDS) for inclusive play.
"The playground is consistent with the goals and vision of the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan that the City Council accepted that promotes inclusivity through universal design and promotes health and wellness for our children and their families," Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller said.

Putting Research into Practice
With its numerous climbers, balance beams, and swings, Nealon Park promotes youth physical fitness through play. That is why the park also received the NDS designation for Play On!. The designation recognizes parks that combine all six essential elements of play to promote youth physical activity.
By incorporating natural plantings, such as the large redwood trees near the playground, and following the guidelines and research in the NatureGrounds guidebook, Nealon Park also received the NDS recognitions for Nature-Based Play.

Custom Play Solutions for Communities
Transforming a park into an inclusive and multigenerational space is important for every community. Designing a custom park gives landscape architects plenty of room to be creative. The city of Menlo Park exemplifies the combination of custom theming and evidence-based research, and the next park you are specifying for can do the same. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to playgrounds,
The playground manufacturer and Landmark Design artists, designers and engineers work with landscape architects to create custom, themed play structures that tell a story, inspire a community, and encourage activity and a love for nature in children.


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