Thursday, October 13, 2011

Urban parks, part 1: There's nowhere to park in this town!

We love parks!

Growing up, there were always parks.  In the first house I remember, on Elm Street, there was a park across the street, or rather, across a street and a large open field.  I lived in that house from first grade through sixth, and a lot of time was spent at that park.  From the time I was in second grade or so, I could go there with my friends, parent-free.  My best friends Steve and Ben lived close by, and the three of us would play "lava monster" or stand in the baby swings discussing such serious topics as what to dress as for Halloween.  I realize now that my parents could probably actually see us the entire time from the front porch, but it still felt like freedom.  It was far enough that we had to "go there", but close enough that if we started running when the first raindrops fell, we'd make it home before the storm hit in full force.

Then, in sixth grade, we moved about a mile up (down?) the road, and we could not actually see the nearest park from our house.  This was sort of perfect because by then I was old enough to go to the park with some friends and say I'd be back in an hour without too much parental concern.  We were a bit big for the playground by then (or so we said), but there was a "pond" that was flooded in the winter to make a 1/2 foot deep skating rink and a creek for poking around in.  There were no cell phones then, so if my parents needed me, that had to walk the four blocks, or just wait for me to come home.

Keep reading!  After the jump, I finally make my point.  And Brittany rides a dinosaur.




The point of this meander down memory lane is simply to demonstrate that my elementary school years clearly led me to take parks for granted.  I continued blithely on in this manner until I moved to Washington, DC and became the part-time parent/fairy godmother to a whole gaggle of girls, and finally the full-time parent of my own little fuzzball.  I quickly learned a few things about city parks, namely:

  • The definition of a park is very loose.  It does not have to include a playground, and can consist of a triangle of grass bounded on all three sides by busy streets.  
  • Parks can unfortunately be a gathering place for an unseemly element.  This manifests itself in a number of ways, not limited to lurking strangers without children or discernible purpose, broken glass, public urination, used syringes and all manner of trash.
  • Repairing broken swings, painting rusty steps and installing a slide at that crazy drop-off appear to be rather low on the city to-do list.
  • City kids love parks as much, if not more than, other kids.  After all, Elijah and his Washingtonian peers often have no backyards to play in.  
Maybe this dinosaur knows where the park is...


All these facts combined made me into a woman on a mission-a mission to scout out green spaces wherever they might lie and sift through the dreck until I found a suitable place for my children to play.  Tomorrow, I will share some lessons learned through my years of sifting.  Then, if you stick with me, on Monday I will disclose the (not-so) secret locations of some of my favorite play spaces around town.  And I know some good ones.  See you tomorrow!

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