Thursday, November 5, 2009

Live, Work and Play but where's the Play? Kaboom! states that Play Matters

In many of the development meetings I attend I always hear the mantra "Live, Work & Play" but to me the play aspect is always missing from the developers plans. For all of the thousands of housing units that were built off Ashford Dunwoody in the last ten years, where is the nearest park for children to play?  Where is the nearest playground?  Here is an even tougher question, where in the City of Dunwoody is there a public basketball hoop?  These questions are very hard to answer and they need to be addressed as part of our future city planning.

The playground group Kaboom! released a report earlier this month featuring 12 best practices in play from across the country. Entitled Play Matters, the report describes successful local initiatives to improve opportunities for play and draws conclusions about why they have worked. The group aimed to address three issues: 1) increasing the quantity of available play spaces and play opportunities; 2) improving the quality of spaces and experiences; and 3) increasing safe access to play. It also provides a summary of information linking play initiatives to positive outcomes in health, education, the environment and the economy.

I would also like to thank Kaboom! for the wonderful playground they helped install behind Chesnut Charter Elementary School several years ago as it serves not only the school children but also the community around the school.  Thank You.
Play Matters Case Summaries


Unknown said...

I love the point about the public basketball hoop. Brook Run had one and it never got maintained, and then it got torn down. Vanderlyn had some way back in the day (6 hoops!), before a gym and trailers got thrown on top of courts.

There really needs to be some public hoops in our community. It's a great way to meet neighbors and stay active. Actually, I should be a bit more stern; with all the funding to Brook Run and these schools, not having a hoop at any of them is very sketchy.


Pattie Baker said...

John: It sounds like a citizen-initiative to get a basketball hoop in Brook Run Park could work (like the community garden and the dog park). Anyone willing to take it on?

Also, I read every last page of the Play document (you know how I love these documents!)and I have a couple thoughts:

1. We need a big, fat, hairy USABLE greenspace goal as a city, however unrealistic it may sound right now. I suggest "The 2020 Vision for the City of Dunwoody is to have usable public greenspace within one half mile of every single residence in Dunwoody." Ways to do this include: * joint-use agreements with schools, places of worship and HOAs, leasing private property (i.e. the
power line area), *repurposing right-of-ways as linear parks (see the upcoming Abernathy Park in Sandy Springs), and, of course, park ownership and greenspace aquisition.

The mayor of St. Petersburg, FL, set a goal of a playground within a half mile of every child (see page 42).

#27 on the ARC Green Community certification checklist has specific minimums of greenspace in order for us to qualify for those points, including "all residents live within 1/2 mile walking distance to a park."

2. Okay, fine, we're years away from having enough greenspace, but that doesn't mean we can't be innovative. I propose that we develop a Play Streets initiative for 2010 that involves the closing of a different street once a week or month for as little as two hours so that people can walk, bike, rollerskate, jumprope, and use the streets for play in a car-free environment. New York City does this all summer and it has been an enormous success (see pages 36-37). Let's rethink the space we DO have available and use it creatively as we develop more usable greenspace. If there is pushback about using streets, then maybe underutilized parking lots could be an option.

John Heneghan said...

Pattie, I lived directly across the street from a Chicago Public Elementary School which had two full size basketball courts. Many hours of my youth were spent on that playground and I would like to see the same or better facilities for my (the city's) children.

The last time I checked Chesnut Elem had no hoops attached to the backboards, Peachtree Middle has no such amenities and neither does the new Dunwoody Elementary.

A few years down the road when my boys enter their teenage years, I hope that Brook Run Park will have a wide variety of athletic and other safe activities to fill their time.

At the moment the City doesn't own the parks therefore all capital improvements into the park to serve our citizens is also put on hold. Some will probably argue that basketball courts don't fit into the current master plan for Brook Run but then again I doubt that an aviary will ever be built either, therefore at some time in the future a City of Dunwoody parks master plan will need to be developed. Only then with much discussion (including active participation by our youth) will we have a true parks master plan that provides park services and facilities available to serve a wide cross section of the Dunwoody community.

Someday we may even be able to get benches at the Brook Run Playground.

Pattie Baker said...

John: The idea of a Youth Commission is one worth considering. It's a great way to engage the youth voice in innovations and opportunities in local policies and community development. What's more, we increase active citizenship for the future. Cities nationwide are doing this. See here for a quick overview: