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08-18-21 | Department

Visibility for Parents and Challenging Fun for Kids

Mariners Church Irvine, CA

At Mariners Church in Irvine, California, Landscape Architects with Conceptual Design and Planning Company, designed this playground with varying levels of challenging and inclusive play features. Balancing elements connect different areas of the playground and offer unique challenges for children and opportunities for parents to climb or help children navigate across the play elements. Several hammocks were added to open up spaces for kids to rest, interact together and obtain a new vantage point. Landscape Structures, Inc. provided the transfer station.
Sand, rubber, turf, colored concrete and landscape areas break up the playground space, organize different play zones and guide users through the space. A cave element gives children another place to slow down, feel comfortable in an enclosed environment and partake in imaginative play. Comfortable and shaded seating areas are located in and around the entire play areas, therefore sight visibility from one side of the play area to the other is maintained.
Climbing play elements in the form of rock walls, boulders and ropes are found on various sections, adding a diverse and challenging array of play options that can be approached in unique ways by children of different ages and abilities.
Taller slides are located at the top of climbing elements to provide challenges and interest for older children. Sand play and small artificial boulders allow for younger children to play near comfortable and colorful seating for parents that is centrally located within the play areas giving parents a clear vantage point to keep an eye on kids throughout the park.

Mariners Church is one of the largest and fastest growing churches in Orange County, CA. Located in the Newport Coast area of Irvine, this 50-acre campus has experienced recent expansion from two existing permanent buildings to seven major buildings plus parking structures. Unique worship opportunities are offered in the main worship center, a chapel on the lake and within the kids and youth ministry buildings that offer age-specific classes and services. A newly renovated community building and plaza also provides spaces for large events and seminars while housing a thrift store and a food pantry. Outdoor features include a three-acre man-made lake, waterfalls, an island dining facility and a baptismal pool. An active open play lawn fills the center of the campus as well as a youth plaza, volleyball courts and other site amenities.

The Children's Ministry building and adjoining playground were completed in 2005 and an entirely reimagined space was in order 10 years later to meet the needs of a growing congregation. While the existing play equipment worked well with the toddler and preschool age children, the church reimaged the play space to be enlarged and expanded to encompass a broader age range to create play opportunities for all.

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Mariners Church envisioned a community space that would be welcoming and accessible to the surrounding neighborhoods. The goal was to exceed the expectations of the community by creating a playground destination that would engage and meet the demands of active users. For nearly two decades landscape architecture firm Conceptual Design and Planning Company (CDPC) has been an integral part of the on-going development and vision at Mariners Church.

In 2016, CDPC was tasked with re-designing a 20,000 square foot area of the existing playground with the goal of creating an inspirational and engaging atmosphere for children while allowing parents various viewing and play-along opportunities. Working with Dave Bang Associates the team set out to create a space that included a wide array of play elements and activities that would appeal to children of different age ranges and abilities. Selecting components that were all inclusive, allowing children with disabilities to play alongside other children, was a key factor in the design.

The rope and climbing structures immediately stood out as elements that could serve as the focal points in the design while providing unique play experiences beyond the standard platform-based structures. These structures provide play opportunities for older kids with more height in play equipment which create layers of play and increase visibility across all areas. Diverse climbable elements also present challenges to be conquered whereby increasing confidence and creating trust in themselves. Climbing challenges and net structures also allow for opportunities of engagement between parents and kids. Independent elements such as climbable landscape rocks act
as a bridge to bring kids of all ages together safely.

The integration of multiple surfacing options were creatively used to help support the overall theme and guide users as they move through the space. Poured-in-place rubber surfacing was used throughout the playground along with areas of synthetic turf, sand, cobble and colored concrete. An area of artificial turf surrounded by low seat walls and shaded by a canopy of Date Palms allows ample open space opportunities for toddlers to play in a safe and highly visible space.

CDPC aspired to design a safe and engaging play space for kids which not only creates an opportunity for the community to gather but also enables parents to connect and socialize. Seating opportunities interspersed throughout the play areas promote inclusivity and visibility for safety. Many groups use the playground area for weekday meetings and Sundays are filled with family playtime before and after church services.

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