Monday, May 24, 2010

PARKS: Age Appropriateness of Play Equipment in Hodgkins-Curtin Park

Question/Comment: A resident has a concern about Hodgkins-Curtin park in opposition to a recent post made on May 17th, 2010. S/he holds that during the planning meetings, residents were told that one of the reasons for replacing the old structure was to provide a more appropriate challenge to children aged 5 to 12. However, s/he finds that the recently installed new structure is lower and tamer than the old one, and notes that while it has some nice ground-level play features, these do not really engage an elementary-school age child. The resident's five-year-old daughter has mastered all of the features on the new structure. The resident also contends that s/he has seen recently-built playground structures in the Boston area that are made to be more appropriate for older children, and believes that it is obvious that one of these was not installed in Hodgkins-Curtin Park. The resident would like to know why this play structure is not geared towards older children and if this can be remedied.

City Update 6/1/10:  The new structures are certified by Columbia Cascade (the play structure manufacturer) to be appropriate for ages 2-5 on the younger kids structure and 5-12 on the older kids structure, though it is common for younger children to quickly adapt to the challenges of the larger structure. These structures were selected in collaboration with the residents through the community outreach process.  Final playground equipment renderings were presented at the meetings illustrating which structures would be installed.  Those structures have remained constant through out the design process and are what have been installed with only very minor modifications through construction. The playground area of the park is somewhat limited and precludes the installation of an expansive play structure and it was established early in the design process that the playground's footprint would remain the same through renovation.

In an effort to accommodate the variety of requests by the community, the space needed to be designed very carefully.  The following neighborhood concerns were critical to the spatial planning of the playground: keeping as many trees as possible, including a sand play element, maintaining an aesthetic of ‘natural materials’, creating a seating area under the trees to accommodate small neighborhood events/parties, including swings for both older and younger kids, including a perimeter path for tricycle riding, including a small plaza along Holland Street. Based on these directives from the community, the design team presented play ground equipment options, including those with more modern appearance that have a higher level of risk available for older kids.  Columbia Cascade provided the structure with the most play value that could fit on this site within the limits of safety laws.  The design team worked hard to ensure the greatest number of play features possible were incorporated within the space available.  

While certainly there are some children, like this resident’s five year old, that are physically adept and can ‘master’ the basic play structure elements easily, there are other children who will find the same elements challenging. In some cases, it becomes the challenge of the more advanced children to continue to create opportunity for mastery in new and innovative ways. Not every park can be all things to all people.  In the case of Hodgkins-Curtin, the City believes that we have created the most dynamic environment possible, given the constraints of the site.


  1. We like it a lot. Thank you.

  2. It's not about mastering the equipment - it's about how you have fun on it. Is it a house? A ship? A rocket?
    Thanks for a great response - can't believe someone complained.

  3. Thanks for sharing interesting post about playground structures. I like your theme about playground structures. I found very useful as well as interesting. I will back read more.

    Playground Structures

  4. Thanks for sharing the informative tips about the natural things. I like your post and I am happy to share this post to my friends and family.
    soft play equipment


Please note that you are about to comment on a blog moderated by the City of Somerville. Questions and comments will be moderated, edited, and responded to as time allows.

Also note, there are certain legal terms associated with posting to this website which include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. No comments or posts may endorse any candidate or political parties for political office;
2. No comments or posts may advertise or offer to sell any goods or services; and
3. No comments or posts may defame or otherwise violate the legal rights of others.

A complete version of the legal terms and conditions for posting to this website is available here: