Playgrounds: Our Favorite Picks
Playgrounds: Try a Few of Our
There’s nothing like the
neighborhood playground. You’re bound to find at least a couple of
familiar faces, and your kids know exactly where to head for climbing,
swinging, and sliding. But once in a while, a change of scenery is good. And a
trip to a different park can add a bit of the exotic to an afternoon of
playground fun. Take a picnic lunch along, and you’ve got a full-fledged
Central Baltimore County
Oregon Ridge Park—Another
Name for Kid Magnet
For a dozen years, this was the
ritual: After spending any time at all at the old playground at Oregon Ridge
Park, you had to take a good 10 minutes to shake the sand out of your
kids’ shoes, clothes, and hair.
Well now, the old sand-surface
playground has been replaced with a bright new structure that, on sunny days,
draws dozens and dozens of visitors from miles around.
Oregon Ridge Park is on Beaver Dam
Road in Cockeysville. It’s the site of everything from summer concerts to
the 4th of July fireworks. Many visitors, however, come just for the playground
whether or not something else is going on at Oregon Ridge.
The most striking thing about the
new playground is the unique, springy surface underfoot. It’s a material
called Pour-In-Place Rubber. According to David Goodwin, the Capital Projects
Coordinator of the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks,
Pour-In-Place provides wheelchair users a more stable surface than wood chips.
(Although both meet current Americans with Disabilities standards.)
There’s enough room for
dozens of kids at once to scramble through the purple, green, and blue play
structure without crashing into each other. There are no fewer than 11 slides,
from gentle inclines for beginners to a giant downhill run that older kids find
There’s a huge parking lot,
plus picnic tables and benches. There’s not much shade, however, and the
playground can get very hot in the sun.
For those of you who miss the
swings at the old playground, take heart. In time, new swings plus additional
toddler-friendly equipment will be added to the mix. By Amy Landsman.
Head for the
Hills—Riderwood Hills Park
Baltimore County has been on a
virtual playground-building binge in recent years. Since 1996, the County has upgraded
130 of its 160 community playgrounds. The final 30 are scheduled for completion
Riderwood Hills Park in Towson is
a good example of the work that’s been done. Tucked away in a little
tree-filled hollow on Kenilworth Drive, there’s a good chance
you’ve driven right past it on your way to the Shops at Kenilworth next
door and never even noticed.
Well, now it’s time for a
second look, because the worn-out 25-year-old playground has just been
completely renovated. A new play structure and swings are in place, and the
County still plans to upgrade the walkway. The green, red, and tan structure
boasts a zip line, suspension bridge, three slides, and swings. It has a clever
pretend “rock wall” that even my 4-year-old can climb with just a
gentle push on his behind.
Riderwood Hills also features
basketball courts and a baseball field, picnic tables and benches, and the park
is pleasantly shady in the summer.
Riderwood Hills is walking
distance for residents of the surrounding homes and apartments. There’s
street parking on Kenilworth Drive, or you can park at the Shops at Kenilworth
and conveniently swing into the mall for lunch and ice cream after playtime is
done. By Amy Landsman.
Cedar Lane Park Swings
The playground at Cedar Lane Park
is enormous, with several separate structures. Kids who want to slide can
choose from spiral slides, tube slides, straight slides, and side-by-side
slides. Swingers have their choice of bucket or strap seats.
There’s also a track ride
that kids can swing across, steering wheel panels, bouncy bridges, and plenty
of places to climb.
The sprawling playground, which is
made of wood, was built in 1994, says Raul Delerme, park planner for Howard
County. Under foot are wood chips that are wheelchair accessible. And one of
the climbing structures is also specially made with wheelchairs in mind, adds
One disadvantage of the playground
is that it doesn’t have a lot of shade. On the plus side, however, there
are water fountains and rest rooms in close proximity.
The sprawling playground is part
of a 100-acre park that features basketball courts, horseshoe pits, tennis
courts, and volleyball courts. Cedar Lane Park is recognized as one of the
finest sports complexes in the state. It can be reached from either Route 108
or Cedar Lane. The park is open daily from dawn until dusk. By Karen Nitkin.
Slide By Centennial Park
On any halfway decent day, the
playground at Centennial Park is packed. Kids are everywhere, sliding on
slides, steering the steering wheels, and swinging from the monkey bars on the
metal and plastic playground set.
The playground has lots of
climbing structures and several kinds of slides, including a tunnel slide, a
side-by-side slide, and a corkscrew slide. There’s a fun-house mirror, a
bouncy bridge, and overhead climbers, among other apparatus.
Above the din of happy children,
the thwack of tennis balls echo from the nearby courts, while shouts and groans
rise from the basketball court, which is down a small hill.
Mothers perch on the wooden curb,
or help their children navigate the equipment. Wood chips cover the ground,
creating a safe place for children to fall. The chips are also an accessible
surface that can be navigated from a wheelchair. And, just like Cedar Lane
Park, one of the major playing structures also has a ramp that makes it
The playground, built in 1996, is
part of a 325-acre park at the corner of Route 108 and Centennial Lane. The
park has several entrances, but the playground is best accessed from the West
Area entrance off Centennial Lane.
The park also features a lake and
a walking path, which is about two-and-a-half miles long. In the summer,
paddleboats can be rented for use on the lake and a concession stand in the
pavilion sells hot dogs, ice cream, and other treats.
There are also baseball and
softball fields, a volleyball court, and picnic areas with cooking grills.
The park is open dawn to dusk from
April to November, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter months. By Karen
Western Baltimore County
Gay Oaks Park—Preschool
Baltimore County hit the target
right on the mark when it constructed this Little Tikes playground in Arbutus.
Located off Sulphur Spring Road, across the street from Arbutus Middle School,
this playground is geared toward kids ages 2 and older.
Big green plastic dinosaurs, baby
swings, picnic tables, room to play ball, a fenced in tennis court, and two
play structures are quickly making this brand new park a favorite among parents
and their preschoolers.
One of the gym complexes stands no
more than three feet off the ground and offers bumpy slides, double slides,
turning blocks, mini-ladders, a bouncy bridge, and the minimum amount of
platforms off which your little someone can fall.
The companion play structure is
taller, but offers rails on either side so that if little ones decide to follow
their older sibling, they can climb safely to the long double slide.
The park is located on a piece of
land nestled between two residential areas. There are benches and picnic tables
that make it easy to pack a lunch. Parents can park in the Arbutus Middle
School parking lot and brave crossing the street. Or, it may be easier to park
in the alley located behind a row of townhouses adjacent to the playground. By
Jacqueline V. Scott.
Temple—Perfect for Playgroups
This playground is conveniently
located within walking distance from several Catonsville neighborhoods, which
has made this spot a local favorite meeting place for moms, dads, and kids.
Though the proximity to Edmondson
Avenue to the south and a sloping hill to the north can keep some moms of
runaway toddlers on their toes, there is plenty at this playground—not
the least of which is other kids—to keep little ones interested.
One such attraction is the Everest
of slides: a gigantic spiral slide that can sufficiently wear out a preschooler
after only a couple of climbs.
Located on the grounds of the
Christian Temple, this playground also offers a variety of swings, including
four regular, four baby, and one for children with special needs.
The main play station features a
mini and regular slide along with ladders and monkey bars. Toddlers love to
stand at the wheel of the
“ambulance” before they take a ride down the mini-slide.
There are several picnic tables at
this site, which makes it easy for playgroups to meet here at lunchtime.
Parking is easy—just leave your car in the Christian Temple parking lot. By
Jacqueline V. Scott.
Harford County and Northern
The Lyn Stacie Getz Creative
Playground—Fenced In For Fun
”If you build it, they will
come” could be the motto for this playground, which literally rose from
the dirt at the intersection of Route 24 and East Ring Factory Road in
Emmorton, just south of Bel Air in Harford County.
The 14,000 square-foot playground
was raised in five days last spring with the dedication and determination of
hundreds of community volunteers and soldiers from the 16th and 143rd Ordnance
Battalions. Similar in appearance to the established playground at Rockfield
Park next to John Carroll High School, the Lyn Stacie Getz Creative Playground
was named in memory of Bel Air residents Alan and Carol Getz’s daughter,
who was killed in an apartment fire in New York City several years ago.
The park’s design, with its
steeple-roofed, wooden cubicles and staircases, was influenced by the
suggestions of four local elementary schools. Kids must know what they want,
because this place—despite any weather—is always hopping, from
sunrise to sunset.
An adult waist-high wooden fence
with only one entrance/exit surrounds the playground, which allows parents to
sit in the shade or on a sunny picnic bench and know their child is in there
somewhere, even if they momentarily lose sight of their youngster. With dozens
of activities, from a simple sandbox to tire swings—including swings
designed for physically challenged children—to plastic, tubular slides,
there’s something fun for all age groups, even energetic grown-ups. The
hardest thing to do there is getting your kids to leave. By S.C. Torrington.
Ever wonder what becomes of all
those old tires taken to recycling centers? Some have found second lives as
part of the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Scrap Tire
Playground Project. The MDE, in conjunction with the Maryland Environmental
Service, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and community volunteers
have erected almost a dozen scrap tire playgrounds throughout the state.
Northern Baltimore County’s
tire playground is located in the Gunpowder Falls State Park (Hammerman Area)
in White Marsh.
Built in 1997 with the help of the
Governor’s Summer Youth Employment Project, the playground uses whole
truck tires as most of the playground equipment, including swings, obstacle
courses, and climbing gyms. A kid-sized toy boat and dragster are a combination
of wood and tires. Even the benches are bordered with whole tires, partially
embedded into the ground. The center of the play area is a large wooden house
with stairs, a rope climbing incline wall, and a double-wide sliding board.
Utilizing tires as much as
possible, the groundcover consists of scrap tire chips. Nearby, there’s a
cement surface with several picnic tables and barbeque grills, a large
restroom, and drink vending machines.
The Hammerman Area offers several
types of playgrounds, foods concessions, covered pavilions, and hiking and
biking trails. On the banks of the Gunpowder River, 1500 feet of beach and
swimming area (supervised by lifeguards from Memorial to Labor Day) with a
windsurfing beach and independent watercraft rental make for a fun-filled day
at the park. By S.C. Torrington. BC
For more information on the
scrap tire playgrounds throughout the state, call 410-631-3315 or 800-633-6101,
ext. 3315, or visit the website