The aging, wooden playground at White Park will be re-imagined, starting with input from children

  • Myles Mishkit, 3, plays with his motorcycle on the snow-covered wood chips at the playground at White Park in Concord on Tuesday. Myles came to the park with his mother and little brother. “We love this playground; it’s one of the best playgrounds around,” said Myles’s mother Gretchen. The Mishkits live in Boscawen. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Myles Mishkit, 3, walks gingerly on the snow-covered wood chips at the playground at White Park in Concord on Tuesday, December 10, 2019. Tyler came to the park with his mother and little brother. "We love this playground; it's one of the best playgrounds around, " said Tyler's mother Gretchen. The Mishkits travel from their home in Boscawen to come play at the playground. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Myles Mishkit, 3, walks gingerly on the snow-covered wood chips at the playground at White Park in Concord on Tuesday, December 10, 2019. Tyler came to the park with his mother and little brother. "We love this playground; it's one of the best playgrounds around, " said Tyler's mother Gretchen.  The Mishkits travel from their home in Boscawen to come play at the playground. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 12/10/2019 5:08:51 PM

Gretchen Mishkit traveled from Boscawen with her two young sons Tuesday so they could spend the morning at the playground at White Park.

“We love this playground,” she said, watching 3-year-old Myles run around snow-covered wood chips. “It’s one of the best playgrounds around.”

For 25 years, children in the Concord area have grown up playing on the city’s beloved wooden “Monkey Around Playground.” Concord Parks and Recreation Director David Gill said the 14,000-square-foot play area, the largest in the city, is a “destination playground” for families living in the region.

The structure, built in part by members of the community in 1994, has a set of rainbow-colored cupolas and imaginative nooks that incorporate art, music and play. These are all elements that make it unique, Gill said.

But it’s also aging – and fast. It is almost entirely made from wood, and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and Friends of White Park have put in time and money replacing and staining boards – problems that will only get worse over time.

It’s also not equipped with the latest technology and best practices that promote an inclusive environment for children with disabilities.

Now, it’s time for a new design of the playground – which the city hopes to have built by summer 2021 – and officials are asking for the public’s help designing one that will be as accessible as possible for all children and families.

On Thursday night from 6 to 7:30 p.m., families are invited to meet at the city community center at 14 Canterbury Road for input on a new playground that will hopefully last through the next 40 to 50 years. During the morning meeting, volunteers will also visit two elementary schools to join in design activities with students.

As it did 27 years ago when the current Monkey Around Playground was being designed, the national company that specializes in community-built play areas, Playground by Leathers, will be completing the design. The bill for the renovation project will be split between the city and private donors.

“My hope is that whatever we do still has that imaginary feel that the Monkey Around Playground has – it’s that destination that brings kids together to play and explore and have that freedom to grow their minds as well as their bodies,” Gill said. “It’s wonderful, it’s very historic to the community, and I do think it needs to be a destination playground.”

Gill said for its age, the existing playground is holding up relatively well. The largest issue is how well the wood will hold up as time goes by.

“Many of the old wooden playgrounds like this one have been replaced over the years,” he said. “A year from now or two years from now when the wood becomes something we cannot maintain anymore, we need to have a plan with community support to move forward.”

The re-design allows opportunities for accessibility that weren’t utilized in the first design. One major issue now are the wood chips that are used in the play space. Artificial turf is more inclusive because it can be navigated by someone in a wheelchair, using a walker or for someone with other mobility issues.

Much of the Monkey Around Playground is also built on stairs. Having a ramp or hill to lead to activities like slides is another way to promote accessibility.

One proponent of the re-design to increase inclusiveness was former Concord High School Principal Gene Connolly, who wrote to the city about the project in 2018. Connolly, who was battling ALS, was using a power wheelchair to move around then and said he wanted to be able to visit the playground with his grandchildren.

“I truly believe that our public schools and community playgrounds are the spaces where we have to be pushing for inclusion,” he wrote. “That by pushing for inclusion in this space, it ripples out into our greater community and into our world.”

“Since I was diagnosed with ALS, the importance of inclusion is more clear than ever. It is no longer a theoretical philosophy, but a practical reality for me ... Any child born into this community – including those with disabilities – should be able to fully access a playground in the most central and well-known park in our community,” Connolly wrote.

Nearly one in five people have a disability in the United States, and 13% of kids enrolled in public school (about 6.7 million children) receive extra services for needs ranging from autism to hearing impairment, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

An assessment completed in 2015 by Playground by Leathers determined the replacement project will cost at least $200,000. It may cost more, depending on what design features the public wants to see included.

Gill said the Parks and Rec Department hopes to have a concept ready for City Council review in the spring. This will allow fundraising to take place prior to construction, which is projected for summer 2021.

Share your voice 

A survey created by the Concord Parks and Recreation Department for community feedback om the re-imagined playground at White Park can be found below. 


Please support the Monitor's coverage

Help us fund local COVID-19 reporting in our community.




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy