Top 10: Playgrounds for Swinging, Climbing, Sandboxing Are Spread Through Birmingham
Modern, well-equipped park facilities offer convenient summer fun.
Life is a playground for those whose age is a single digit. That's especially true in summer, when daily adventure choices locally include backyards, day camps, Baldwin Library activities, Forest Hills Swim Club and public parks.
Slides, climbers, tunnels, swings and bouncy seats in primary colors are in or near all neighborhoods – part of what makes "walkable city" appeal more than just a slogan. Here's a sampling of funscapes for the youngest park visitors, each with brightly colored equipment and soft surfaces underneath.
- Booth: The city's largest, most popular playground was designed after an all-day planning session with children from two schools. It was financed partly by donations and was built during Labor Day week in 2006 by hundreds of volunteers who loaned tools and worked alongside pros. The multilevel play structure won an award and transformed land given to Birmingham by the Booth publishing family during the 1940s. Youngsters enjoy elevated walkways, dark passages, a sliding hill, tire swing, two-story enclosed slide, rock climbing, crawling tubes, fortlike towers, a full-size Woodward streetcar replica, slides and several sandboxes. Three tables have umbrella-style metal awnings. There's also plenty of flat lawns and hillsides for running, games, sports practice, picnics and winter sledding.
- Shain: The 2009-10 expansion enlarged a playground with new equipment, stretching nearly a block at the Martin Street side. Four swings, a slide and a barrel-style structure to creep through are shaded by a sprawling, climbable tree with sturdy, low branches. Three benches and two mock stone seats are part of the spread in the midst of downtown.
- Poppleton: The city's biggest park, spanning 15 acres between Woodward and my northeast-side neighborhood, has broad green swaths for kites, model planes, picnics and frolicking. Playground equipment includes two structures, a climbing dome, crawling tubes, swings, a sandbox with donated toys and a suspended bench for gentle swinging for all ages. Five benches and three movable picnic tables are shaded. Curbside parking is steps away — without meters, in contrast to Booth and Shain parks.
- Barnum: Two play structures and other colorful equipment were installed in 2009 at this new park off Pierce, a short stroll south of downtown. In addition to ball fields and a small skating oval in winter, there are two swings, a teeter-totter, a rotating platform resembling a big tire and four unshaded benches. A large parking lot is on the George Street side.
- Pembroke: Three large structures and child-friendly basketball hoops are at this park on North Eton, near Birmingham's northeast border with Troy. It also has eight swings, four animal-shape bouncers, a sandbox, teeter-totter, five picnic tables and four benches.
- Kenning: Also on the east end, this well-shaded retreat behind the Birmingham Racquet Club and four public courts has a play structure, sandbox, eight swings, four benches and two tables.
- St. James: On the west side of Woodward, this park on Grant Street (off Lincoln) has three structures, six swings, a crawl-through tube, sandbox and two bouncing animal seats.
- Linden: Tiny play area off West Lincoln has one structure, four swings and access to an inviting Rouge River trail. Limited parking on Brandon Road.
- Lincoln Well: Another small playground is next to tennis courts farther west on Lincoln, near Larchlea Drive.
- Springdale: This northernmost city park above Big Beaver Road is alongside a sprawling picnic grove and golf course. It has two structures, 10 swings, a mock vehicle, sandbox and bouncing ride. It's at the east end of Strathmore Road.
Park playgrounds also are at Crestview on Southfield Road; Howath on Cummings Street; Pump House Park in the Birmingham Farms neighborhood; and alongside the district's eight elementary schools.