This week, I stayed very close to home and explored a park here in Raleigh. With over 200 parks to select from and so many I had already visited, I went to the Raleigh Parks, Recreation Cultural Resources
website for assistance and what I found was a very cool park finder tool. The tool let me search based on location, activity, or park name. After a little reading, I selected Roanoke Park for a visit. Located at 1500 Cherokee Drive, this park is not far from downtown Raleigh. This is a 1.6-acre park that I can best describe as shaped like a funnel. The far end of the park is a triangular grassy field with volleyball net for open play. Next, there was a small picnic shelter with 1 table and a grill. Then a wooden boardwalk leads to a narrow section that has the playground and basketball court. This park is surrounded by neighborhood streets on all sides.
When I arrived, I was impressed by several things. First, there was no parking lot, just on-street parking. This suggests to me that many of the users either walk or ride a bike to the park. Another interesting thing I noticed was that in addition to the traditional playground equipment and a basketball court, there were numerous wheeled toys - scooters, big wheels, tricycles, etc. These toys didn’t look like they had been provided by Raleigh Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources. A lady who was conducting a children’s art class at a nearby business came to the park with 7-10 children in tow. I asked her about the toys, and she said people bring/leave them at the park when their kids out grow them. She used to bring her son there 20 years ago, and it was the same way then. There were also 4 basketballs near the basketball court as well.
After a little more looking, I found a sign addressing the toys. The playground is designed for children ages 2-12. Toy play is allowed in designated areas only, and they are asked to only play with the toys provided. They also are asked to inspect toys prior to use and advised not to play with broken or damaged toys. Finally, children are encouraged to share toys and return them to their storage areas. For many reasons, I thought this was a neat idea for sharing toys in a neighborhood. Then I put on my park and recreation professional hat and thought there have to be concerns with random toys being left or taken from the park. I reached out to Kathy Capps, Manager of Learning Development and Risk Management with the department, to find out more.
This is a unique programming opportunity. Raleigh Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources has a Toy Play Agreement with the neighborhood that outlines what the city and the neighborhood will both do in regards to management and maintenance of the toys. This is a perfect example of a good community partnership - the idea came from the neighborhood, and both parties have taken steps to make sure it continues to be viable for the community. Unique indeed!
While the big wheel and scooter were too small for me to enjoy, I did spy four basketballs near the court, and one of them fit my hand just fine. I couldn’t resist making a couple of quick baskets before leaving. I’m thinking this might be a good place for the NCRPA staff to square off in a game of horse!
For more information on Roanoke Park, visit http://www.raleighnc.gov/parks/content/ParksRec/Articles/Parks/Roanoke.html