After 25 years in the playground design business, there’s a youthful chime in Steve Hemler’s voice as he describes someone becoming part of General Recreation’s client family- starting with the Elmwood Park project.
“We’ve been blessed over the years with long-time working relationships, however a new client still gets me giddy – and we want to take as good care of them as possible,” he explains.
Steve and his team had the opportunity to work with Spring Garden Township in York, PA, for the first time on a replacement of Grantley and Elmwood Park playgrounds, and the development of Tri-Hill Park, a new, larger playground in the heart of the community. The playground is slated to open in late 2020.
Ann Yost of YSM Landscape Architects, with over 35 years in design and planning community spaces for public recreation, started working with the Township on a comprehensive plan in 2014, followed by obtaining grant funding to update play equipment and ensure ADA compliance. The overall Tri-Hill project also includes the building of a new municipal complex, along with more accessible recreation and public gathering spaces.
When it came time to source and design the playgrounds, Ann referred Craig Ruhl, Spring Garden Township’s Buildings and Grounds Crew Leader, to General Recreation as part of the team.
Craig Ruhl, who had been hands-on in the original playground installations 23 years ago, recalls with a smile, “I remember thinking we wouldn’t have to replace this for a long time, yet, here we are, and in the middle of ushering forth very special improvements for our community. It’s a big deal to make what we’re doing pleasing to our residents.”
From Craig’s perspective, both parks needed to be better “gathering” spaces, so that not only children could play, but families could easily spend time there, with more benches and conversation areas for picnics.
“Working with Ann and Steve was great. The team has quite a talent for design and poignant communication. They really dotted their I’s and crossed their T’s on everything,” explains Craig.
“Our goal was to make the playgrounds unique, challenging and fun with different components and color schemes to complement each neighborhood,” explains Steve.
At Grantley, they selected Landscape Structures’ Evos play equipment for a modern, open design of yellow, bright green, and brown climbers, slides and ladders. With no prescribed entry and exit points, these elements were sure to flex children’s mental and physical muscles.
Elmwood Park’s design was more modular with Landscape Structures’ play components: bright sky blue, brown and gray decks, ramps and climbers. The Township kept existing swings, so the new equipment needed to match the color motif.
Both parks also included new sidewalks, wood carpet surfacing, benches and ADA accessible parking for families to more easily gather. Since the re-opening of the playgrounds in fall 2019, resident feedback has been very positive.
“Throughout the project, communication has been swift,” says Ann. “We can tell Steve and the Gen Rec team truly care. There’s personal attention, and they even put together a manual to help with the installation.”
The Tri-Hill Park & Complex site is indeed complex with a basketball court and two playgrounds in one. Phase One, building a new township facility, is underway. Phase Two is slated for September 2020, which will include the playground, walking paths and a new restroom facility.
The new playground design will include two play areas to serve a wide range of ages and abilities. Focused on a circle motif, Evos structures’ will loop and curve with vibrant orange and dark blue. On a fresh poured-in-place safety surfacing, wobble pods, swiggle stix bridges, large climbing nets, ground-level interactive panels, tunnels and climbers, will offer an open and challenging approach to play. Complete with circular benches and ample family space, Spring Garden Township is eager to provide community gathering spaces for years to come. Stay tuned for more about this project upon completion.