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York Commons Playground

By Colleen Toomey, ASLA, Assistant Park Planner, Elmhurst Park District & LASN Editor, Stephen Kelly




What better place for an Elmhurst class photo than York Commons Playground and the large maple as a backdrop? It sure beats the old “stand on the bleachers” photographic posing of yesteryear.


The Elmhurst Park District, located approximately 18 miles west of Chicago, has remained dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of its community and enhancing lifetime enjoyment for over 44,000 residents for over 85 years. The park planning department performs all site analyses and research, creates designs and construction drawings, oversees the bidding and supervises construction on all new playgrounds to warrant they are up to all standards and codes.




Remember the heavy old wooden seesaws that under vigorous play could hit the asphalt? Well, the new generation gets to experience a modern, light version of the seesaw with multi-seating and back support!
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Park Master Planning

As part of the comprehensive master plan of the park district, when designing a new playground the master plan of the park is viewed, not just the playground itself. The park district traditionally updates an existing playground each year, ensuring all playgrounds get updated every 15 to 20 years. During the research, the park district holds two public meetings with residents and performs surveys with individual park users to receive adequate feedback for the new playground design.




The play equipment is separated for the 2-5 and 5-12 year old age groups to avoid conflicts between the older and younger children. Signage clearly indicates who belongs where and strongly recommends adult supervision.

York Commons

York Commons is a 12-acre community park that serves southeast Elmhurst. The recreational amenities make the park a popular destination. There is the Smalley pool complex, a skate park, a soccer field and a baseball field. The playground was originally located adjacent to the skate park, but after reviewing comments from the residents, it was moved next to the baseball field so siblings of baseball players could play in the playground within view of their parents.




A bright and vibrant color theme of blue, red, and yellow generates a high-energy atmosphere. The bold colors also make the playground more visible from the street. The split rail fence along the border of the playground was requested by the residents to help deter the children from running outside the playground.

Safety First

The playground exceeds safety and handicapped accessibility standards. Poured-in-place safety surfacing throughout the design was requested by the residents. The surfacing, installed by Recreation Concepts out of Oswego, Ill., is also environmentally friendly because it is made of recycled tires. The light green color of the safety surface reduces the heat island effect of the playground, and the porosity of the surfacing decreases water runoff at the site. One of the issues the park district has seen over the years with poured-in-place safety surfacing is that it wears down under the swings where children are constantly dragging their feet. To alleviate this concern, the park district specified the use of safety surface tiles, which are made of a tougher material that will not only last longer, but also allows for ease of replacement of individual tiles as it becomes necessary.




The swing set is a custom design from Landscape Structures consisting of two arch swings on one side, two toddler swings on the other, and a tire swing in the center. Safety surface tiles are beneath the swings, as according to the landscape architect, this material will stand up longer to the dragging feet of kids than the poured-in-place surfacing. The tiles can also be easier to replace.

Installation

The playground was installed by George’s Landscaping of Joliet, Ill. With the use of GPS technology and coordinate points made up by the park district, the contractor was able to have the site laid out and installed in just a few days.




A toddler structure (HAGS) is incorporated into the sand play area. Sand scoopers help the kids do what they most like to do in the sand—dig.

Play Pieces

The playground contains all the equipment and site amenities for an enjoyable play environment for all ages. A bright and vibrant color theme of blue, red, and yellow generates a high-energy atmosphere and the bold colors make it possible to see the playground from the street. The equipment is separated according to age groups with corresponding age signs to lessen conflicts between the older and younger children. The 5-12 year old play equipment include Landscape Structures’ unique and challenging EVOS play system, the eccentric X-Wave-2 seesaw, and the saddle spinner promoting depth perception and balance. The 2-5 year old play equipment includes turtle, fire engine, and custom pony spring toys and a Hags toddler structure incorporated into the sand play area for the encouragement of creative play. The swing set is a custom design from Landscape Structures consisting of two arch swings on one side, two toddler swings on the other and a tire swing in the center. All playground equipment is handicapped accessible through transfer stations and ADA super scoops.




The main play apparatus (Landscape Structures’ Evos) gives kids lots of options, as there is no prescribed entry point or exit. All the components are ground-level accessible. The climbing cable is made of tightly woven nylon-wrapped, six-strand galvanized-steel cable that is extremely vandal resistant.

Site Amenities

All benches and trash receptacles, from Site Craft, are made of plantation grown wood. There are six backless benches with armrests for handicapped accessibility. The two curved benches were custom-made to match the radius of the gazebo and concrete path surrounding the existing maple tree. There is one custom double-sided bench with backs and armrests to guarantee sufficient seating, site lines, and social exchange points for adults. All single 6-ft. benches are surface mounted to 4’ x 10’ concrete slabs that have an adjacent space for a wheelchair to fit comfortably or for a parent to park their strollers. The 20-ft. SII Structures gazebo contains metal support posts, pine roof decking with asphalt shingles and is tucked into the corner giving an excellent shaded view of the playground.




The custom bench curves around the maple. There are six backless benches with armrests for handicapped accessibility. There is one custom double-sided bench with backs and armrests to offer sufficient seating and site lines. All single 6-ft. benches are surface mounted to 4’ x 10’ concrete slabs that have an adjacent space for a wheelchair to fit comfortably or for a parent to park their strollers.

Trees and Other Considerations

The Elmhurst Park District always integrates the use of existing trees on site as well as planting new trees into playground designs. Aspens were chosen to plant within the playground because they are fast growing and will quickly provide shade to park users. Aspen leaves trembling in the breeze with their tints of red and yellow in the autumn are always engaging for the playground user. The aspens do have a shorter life span, but they allow for easy replacement should the playground need another upgrade 20 years from now.




Among the 2-5 year old play equipment is the turtle, fire engine, and custom pony spring toys.

Trees that were planted on the outside of the playground include arborvitae, Norway spruce, and autumn blaze maples in raised landscape beds bordered by granite boulders. The landscape creates seasonal drama, a backdrop to the playground, and provides a buffer to the residences adjacent to the park. The split rail fence that runs along the outside border of the playground was requested by the residents to help deter the children from running out into traffic.




Site amenities include abundant benches (plantation grown wood) and trash receptacles (Site Craft). The youthful playground trees are aspens, chosen for their beauty and fast rate of growth to provide shade. Each aspen has a tree grate.

During construction, residents couldn’t wait for the park’s completion in the fall of 2008. With the new location, unique equipment, and various site amenities, the 10,200 sq. ft. playground received positive feedback and continues to be highly used in 2009.




The 20-ft. gazebo (SII Structures) contains metal support posts, pine roof decking with asphalt shingles and is tucked into the corner, giving an excellent shaded view of the playground. The curved bench was custom-made to match the radius of the gazebo.






York Commons Playground

Designers:
Jerry Pask, ASLA, CPRP, CPSI:
Landscape Architect/Park Planner
Colleen Toomey, ASLA: Assistant Park Planner, Elmhurst Park District

Client:
Elmhurst Park District

Playground Contractor:
George’s Landscaping

Safety Surface Contractor:
Recreation Concepts

Vendors:
HAGS: Tot Structure
Landscape Structures:
Evos Play Structure & Play Equipment
SII Structures: Shelter
Site Craft: Benches, Trash Receptacles
Wabash Valley: Tree Grates
Xccent Play: Play Equipment




Trees planted on the outside of the playground include arborvitae, Norway spruce, and autumn blaze maples in raised landscape beds bordered by granite boulders.

 


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October 15, 2019, 10:34 pm PDT

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