According to recent article in The New York Times about children’s playgrounds, no longer will some NYC playgrounds be a mixture of the same old versions of jungle gyms, swings and slides. In an unusual public-private partnership, the city will replace those physical amusements in one playground with things children can “move and build and create worlds with – sandboxes filled with blocks attached to ropes and pulleys, wheelbarrows, milk crates, etc.” The park would be a model for future parks.
I read that and thought, how great. Here are a group of people that are eagerly trying something new – a playground that will help children interact with new play features – water, ramps, sand and objects meant to spur the imagination, not just make the body climb up and down.
And then I thought, we are in Silicon Valley, in a community filled with parks, and maybe we could try the same thing. After all, our parks in town are cookie-cutter molds of playground equipment that has been around for decades. Maybe they are plastic rather than steel jungle gyms now, but each park seems to have almost identical play equipment and they all look the same. They are boring. And if we don’t have creativity to develop new parks, how can we inspire our children to creatively enjoy our parks?
As I write this, I am also thinking about more than parks. I am envisioning a whole new creative process in town that we all could start thinking about, titled, “How do we make Palo Alto a more interesting, more attractive and more creative place to live in?”
But first back to the parks.
Mitchell Park years ago used to be an area mecca because it was such a creative playground with tunnels and water fountains holes in the ground, etc. And Sunnyvale had a Dixie steamboat park theme replete with waterfalls and fountains that was an absolute delight. But the lawyers must have gotten involved because what the kids play on now is safer, of course, but not imaginative.
Why not have neighborhood theme parks around town – pirates, robots, power rangers, and princess parks for our kids? Why not have big sandy areas where kids can have castle-building contests and maybe equipment on hand, a la New York, to haul equipment from one place to the next?
It shouldn’t take a fortune.
As for the adults in town, we could all start thinking about how to do some exciting things in our city that would make it more fun – and prettier. And it need not cost a lot.
A few ideas I had:
• How about turning the plaza in front of city hall into a park filled with tables and chairs, where we could buy ice cream, desserts, coffee and wine and sit around and lick and sip away.
• Why not have colorful banners deck the rim of the park? The banners need not be immense – but they could serve as a visual magnet to City Hall.
• Why not have the city buy one of the old buildings perhaps on Alma Street, and turn that area into another restaurant park? A new park downtown near the Homer Avenue tunnel could reinvigorate that part of town.
• Why not stage a cluster of colorful banners in certain parts of the downtown?
I think that if we all think creatively about Palo Alto, we could come up with a lot of neat ideas that need not cost much. What are some of yours?