Young dreams enliven plans for playground

Park project will draw on children's imaginations


Kara Ford, 10, was using markers to draw a colorful version of her perfect playground.

"There's a button," she said, pointing to a black circle at the top of a yellow spiral representing a slide. "And that button is for the slide. It's to a castle underground, a clubhouse. It goes you like a roller coaster."

Kara was one of about a dozen children drawing pictures of playgrounds Wednesday afternoon in the Annapolis Walk Community Building in Annapolis.

This wasn't a typical art project. The ideas that the youngsters were so carefully rendering will be incorporated into a playground to be built Oct. 5 in Kingsport Park.

The 2-acre park is yet to be developed, said LeeAnn Plumer, director of recreation and parks for Annapolis.

The playground will be a gift from Home Depot and KaBOOM, a nonprofit group that has helped build about 1,000 playgrounds across the country. The developer of the Kingsport community, Basheer & Edgemoore of Vienna, Va., donated the land.

Stephanie Nelson, project manager for KaBOOM, said getting ideas from children is a key part of planning the playground.

"We think it's really important that they have some ownership," said Nelson, who flew in from Chicago for the Kingsport playground's "design day."

Before she handed out paper and markers, Nelson urged the children, who ranged in age from 5 to 12, to include details such as colors.

"We don't know what the colors are going to be," she said. "We want your ideas."

The youngsters responded with enthusiasm. Mhijaie Johnson, 8, drew swings and slides, monkey bars and an easel where visitors could paint.

Tynasha Mullins, 6, drew a swimming pool and "a cooler to keep my juice," she said. After thinking some more, she decided the cooler would hold "Coke, lemonade, iced tea and fruit punch." And there would be a snack bar selling barbecue-flavored potato chips.

Andrew Roberts, 8, wanted a rock-climbing wall and swings big enough for big children, he said.

Later that afternoon, about 20 adults in the community met to go over the drawings and discuss logistics of building the playground. Volunteers will put the structure together.

Elements such as a rock wall and swings will almost definitely be included in the final design, and some version of a playhouse or fort will probably be included, too, Nelson said.

"How that's all going to play out and what it actually looks like we won't know for a week or so," she said Thursday.

KaBOOM works with Playworld Systems, Nelson said, which can mix and match components to create a custom playground that meets the community's specifications. Within a week or two, Playworld will submit three plans using the components requested by Annapolis children and adults.

Most of the youngsters at Wednesday's design day were from the Bywater branch of the Boys and Girls Club of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. It is within walking distance of the community center, and the children will be close to the completed playground, said Evelyn Parker, director of the summer camp there.

Tariq Lester, 10, said he hopes the playground will have a castle. His drawing featured a castle with an extremely twisty slide leading from one turret and a less twisty slide leading from the other. Elsewhere on his imagined playground was a row of rings, with colorful pads underneath in case of falls.

After Tariq and the other young artists finished drawing, Nelson had them stack up the drawings, stand in a circle around them and say "Kaboom!" That would make the ideas fly into the air, Nelson said, so that the adults could find them later.

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