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A look at the evolution of Calgary's playgrounds

These aren't your parents' playgrounds.

Calgary's outdoor play areas are pushing the boundaries on safety, interactivity and, most importantly, fun, say local experts.

"The best ones for this are ones that are unique, so kids can ask for them by name," said Dana Wheatley, an experiential playground expert and mom of three young children. "A great example of this is Parkdale's Helicopter playground."

Wheatley runs the popular website CalgaryPlaygroundReview.com, which highlights many of the city's best playgrounds.

In her travels, she's found the good one are not only in high-demand for children, but are equally coveted by their homebuying parents.

"A number of different people have told me that the playground in their community was a big factor in where they bought their house," said Wheatley.

Park N Play Design Co. Ltd. president Michelle Clark agrees that playgrounds in the city are becoming destinations. Her Rocky View County-based company, which has designed and installed numerous playgrounds across the province, including more than five dozen in Calgary alone, recently constructed a dinosaur-themed playground that included some interpretive signs worded for children.

The company is currently installing a playground in the northwest community of Hawkwood that will include a representation of a Hawk's nest.

"Every community wants their playground to be unique," said Clark. "They don't want a cookie-cutter design like the one two blocks over.

"(Yesterday's playground) used to be a swing, slide, and merry-go-round, and we called it good. When I was a young girl, we even had that red shale, which I think is still embedded in my knees."

In addition to uniqueness, today's playgrounds are increasingly being designed to meet the physical, communicative, social, emotional and sensory needs of children, while also encouraging the positives of side-by-side-play, added Clark.

She points to the new playground in Killarney on 29th Street S.W. that opened just last week, which it helped design and construct after a City of Calgary-led committee named ImagineParks identified the previous one in the community, as well as a number of others across the city, as unsafe.

While the City offered to originally replace the existing park, the Killarney-Glengarry Community Association also raised funds over the past year to update its design so the playground could be accessible not only to children with physical disabilities, but also for those with vision or social challenges.

They left space so wheelchairs could navigate in-between equipment, and installed creative areas such as a tracing table.

And instead of a traditional swing, they installed an arch swing with a round area that four or five children can sit in was chosen, to be more inclusive.

Killarney resident Carolyn Johnson, who was part of the volunteer committee, said they wanted the playground to be inclusive and accessible.

She added the goal was to create a playground that would be a destination for residents and a great addition to the community.


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Killarney Redevelopment Project - Thank you!

I am getting in touch with you because somewhere along the line this last year, you have been a sponsor of the new accessible Killarney Playground. We cannot thank you enough for your contributions to such an amazing improvement to the community of Killarney Glengarry. With a team of volunteers from Presidents Choice and the Community, we successfully built the new playground a couple of weeks ago. If you have a look at the before and after shots below, it will give you some indication of how far we have come. The rubber surfacing has since been installed and we are just waiting for the City to complete the finishings. We expect the playground to be open to the public next weekend.

You have helped us improve the safety, the diversity, inclusion and age-range of this playground. Not only does it provide increased challenges for climbing and balancing and great linkages for “grounders”, it also includes several zones for those less able. With input from organisations working with children with challenges, we improved the design to make it more inclusive. We ensured a wheelchair could navigate through, Sensory zone: that includes visual, auditory and tactile stimuli, Quiet zone: that includes a tracing table, theatre and shop window, Social zones: accessible car, swing and assisted slide to enable children of diverse abilities to play side by side.

This is a highlight in the community and has already been recognised in the media for being a leader in collaboration. This wouldn’t have been possible without your support to ensure all the elements could come together.

Here is a clip from CTV and look for us in an upcoming article in the CREB magazine.




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ParkNPlay Design Co Ltd. has been representing quality products and services for the parks and recreation, landscape and school industries since 1992. Our team of professionals offer you the highest level of commitment and service.

Parks help families and communities to grow as a source for entertainment and a safe gathering space for children. Park N Play Design Co Ltd. can help you improve your community and design the right space for your recreational needs - and we'll be your partner through every step from concept to proposal to fundraising to order and installation.

We offer:

  • Free site evaluation
  • Free custom 3D design services and CAD rendering
  • Information and support for obtaining grants and fundraising campaigns
  • Planning, organizing and supervising community build projects, or
  • Full factory certified installation and support.

Four Pathways to Enriching Childhood Through Play

Enriching Children, Enriching Communities

  1. Play Research
  2. Thoughtful Design
  3. The Right Players
  4. Improve Your World

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Park N Play Design

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Shelley Robinson

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Tim Aylesworth

403.921.2502

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416.668.9941

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Park N Play Design is recognized as the top Western Canada supplier, including Calgary and Edmonton, in indoor & outdoor custom playspace layout designs of creative theme playgrounds and unique water parks in Alberta and Saskatchewan, allowing children to climb, swing, run, explore, and play all day.

Our fully certified installers create a turn key solution for providing the safest and most cost effective activity centers for kids of all ages, schools, municipal & public parks, and even pet friendly dog parks. We use only the best interactive playground equipment, slides, tunnels, climbing rocks, monkey bars, plus shelters and benches for parents to relax and supervise the fun.