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A Tale of Two Covers . . .

By George Schmok











Play . . . Ground . . . Play on the ground . . . Ground for play . . . Grounds for playing . . . Playgrounds . . .

OK . . . Ever get that sense that a word isn't spelled "write"(sic) or doesn't "mean" what it's supposed to mean? I had that feeling about Ground . . . What is ground? Is it dirt? Is it an area? Is it tangible? Can you hold ground in your hand or when you lift it off the ground does it become something else? . . .

No . . . I haven't been smoking anything, but I have been contemplating the meaning of Playground . . .

In this issue, there are some great examples of well-planned play areas. Several of these play "grounds" are in cities and are defined by fences and borders, physically, culturally and perceptually . . . Some are just way too cool . . .

Some have play "structures"; some have water fountains and interactive jets. They also have safety surfacing, shade devices and seating for those who wish to watch or rest instead of play . . .

All are worthy of being featured in the "Play Ground" issue . . . But which issue? When picking the possible covers for this issue, we narrowed it down to two, possibly three choices. One was a colorful rendering of a playground (Grand Prairie Playground, Lynn Creek Park, "Texas Has a Prairie Dog Playground in It"). The second possibility was an action shot from a playground in use (Madison Street Playground in Hoboken, N.J., "Creating an Oasis in an Urban Setting,").

Still a third possibility was from "Natural Play Environments". We all got to thinking . . . I know, I know . . . That's a dangerous proposition . . . But which cover would be better for the playground issue? The concept of a designed, themed playground, an urban playground in use, or a natural area used for play?

So what did we do? We choose two! Half of you have one, the other half half have the other . . . The design for Grand Prairie Playground was really cool. From above you can see how the Landscape Architect centered the "ship" and themed the whole area to use the adjacent lake as a backdrop for the ship and lighthouse design . . .

In the photography for the ship playground, though, all the photos you will see have only one kid playing, and it doesn't appear to be the same kid in any two shots . . . Now, I'm not sure if those kids were set there for the photo shoot or if the park was even open at the time of the photo shoot, but it just cries out, "Build it and they will come."

In the New Jersey playground and splashpad cover image, two kids are playing in the dry area with cups that may have held water at one point. There is a family sitting back by the benches with the child just sitting on the safety surface playing with what could be a leaf of some kind. And finally in the center are two brothers. The older brother has clearly enlisted his younger brother to hold open the water while he holds down four of the five water spouts, sending up one high stream of water. The young boy has a "wow" look on his face; the older brother has kind of a smug look of satisfaction, having passed on the intricacies of "streaming" . . .

A third potential cover was ground meant for play without being a playground . . . play structures that are decaying logs and the shade structures being those leafy things . . . I think they are called trees . . . with the safety surfacing being loose soil and grass, the play elements being real, live streams; besides the kids, there are all kinds of crawly and flying things to see and touch and chase - Unfortunately the image wasn't crisp enough to run as a cover so this month we "only" had two . . .

But . . . which is better? The cool design concept, the structured learning and play arena or the great outdoors?

Personally, I think they are all great. My bet is the ones who care most are the ones paying for it, not the ones using it. I would have loved to climb the New Jersey playground climbers and tackled my friends on the cushy play surfacing. I have played captain of the ship at a local playground and beat those nasty pirates . . . over and over again . . . And, thank God, there are still areas that are dirty and crawly and places where the kids can get stains on their knees and be grossed out by a bat or a salamander . . .

So please feel free to play around with these ideas and continue to break new ground in letting the kids experience the joys of just being kids . . .

--God Bless

George Schmok, Publisher



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December 9, 2019, 10:44 am PDT

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