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A Playground on a Hill

The Heart and Soul of Mansel Carter Oasis Park

A Playground on a Hill

The playground in Mansel Carter Oasis Park, located in Queen Creek, Ariz., is designed by J2 Engineering & Environmental Design and stands eleven feet above the rest of the park amenities. A total area of about 18,000 square feet, the project includes a rock-climbing wall, a decorative hillside for photos, a play turf zone, and play equipment that accommodate ADA standards. Maroon and tan fabric shade sails create a vertical centerpiece that casts abundant shade.


A Playground on a Hill

This three-level play structure is considered a park icon. Reaching 25' above finished grade, the tower's top level provides a large view of the mountain and lake vistas. The structure has a large slide called the "Typhoon Slide Domed Wave" and a small slide called the "Ski Slide." The play surfacing on the playground is an intricate nature-themed pattern, made up of flowers, leaves and a hummingbird.


Mansel Carter Oasis Park in Queen Creek, Arizona, is a newly-constructed 46-acre park facility that is home to a five-acre fishing lake, splash pad, sand-dig zone, wheel-friendly skatepark, fitness zones, baseball fields, volleyball & basketball courts, multi- use fields, and much more. With all of these different first-class amenities, however, a particular playground still stands above the rest - literally. Designed by Arizona firm J2 Engineering & Environmental Design, the playground is known as "the heart and soul" of MCOP.

Because of a very tight budget for play amenities and equipment, the Town of Queen Creek staff and landscape architects needed to get creative. Their goal was to develop a destination playground, but they could not depend solely on an expensive budget to provide the equipment to be the "star of the show." Therefore, the Team imagined an elevated playground utilizing excess earth that had been excavated from the lake to raise the playground area. This "push and pull" sculpting of the grading and landscape allowed the playground to stand above the rest of the park and lake, as an icon that can be seen from anywhere on the site (and beyond).

The design team and Town worked closely with local committee and resident groups to understand the needs of the community. They heard loud and clear that a main goal was inclusivity. The playground is designed to not only accommodate minimum ADA standards, but to fully embrace children of all abilities. All play equipment was chosen with this goal in mind. Harness swings invite children with underdeveloped upper body strength to swing; a cozy dome provides an escape for an overstimulated child; a spinning dome offers a range of physical challenges; and the first floor of the large tower play piece is accessible by wheelchair.

The Town of Queen Creek also requested a unique amenity-- a rock-climbing wall. The designers used the graded hillside and topography to their advantage, creating opportunities for a more advanced climb for the daring and a milder climb for the less adventurous. Adjacent to the rock-climbing wall is a "social media hillside" spot for visitors to take "selfies" and promote the park.



A Playground on a Hill

The playground has a rock-climbing wall that was created by subtly shifting slopes, tightening the contours for a more advanced climb, and softening the angle for the less adventurous. The faux rock acts as climbing holds and blends into the desert landscape and other features around the park. A rubberized surface area of the slope also provides a gentle climbing wall feature for young children who do not want to challenge the rock wall.


A Playground on a Hill

There is also a double-embankment slide that follows the topography of the site for a fun ride down the slope. Provided are stairs and an ADA pathway that lead back to the top.


The playground is also distinct because of its adjacency to the lake, splash pad, sand-dig area, and open play turf zone. The stimulating splash pad sits to the northwest of the playground, while the quieter sand-dig zone sits to the northeast. Extensive turf surrounds the playground and somewhat erases the borders of it by allowing play to extend past the defined "playground" area, and even onto the grass hillside. The boundaries of the traditional playground are blurred and play value is increased because of the siting of the play area and the nearby amenities.

Through a public-private partnership, Banner Ironwood Medical Center donated $130,000 to cover the costs of rubberized surfacing over the entire playground area and other parts of the park, to help create a more inclusive site. The rubberized surfacing includes design icons and elements of nature that tie in with the theme of "Adventure Play."

Team List
Client: Town of Queen Creek, Ariz.
Contractor: Haydon Building Corp.



As seen in LASN magazine, August 2019.



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August 22, 2019, 8:25 pm PDT

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