Tanbark is Just Plain Mean
I realize of course that I'm too old to go and play at a park. Parks are for kids. Still with all the good memories I have from my youth, I feel sad for the kids of today. In their quest to make the parks safer, many cities it seems are replacing sand with tanbark, and some are even considering rubber ground covering. This is so wrong, playgrounds should have sand.
Whether playing on homemade waterslides* at the tire park or hanging out at the park in the planets after dark and feeling like a rebel, parks were an important part of my childhood. Face it, parks are part of being a kid, and the feeling of the hot sand between your toes as you dig your bare feet in to stop a swing, or the coolness of the sand when you sneak out to the park at night, is an integral part of that. As a kid you live whole sections of your life in the park. Taking off your shoes and walking in the sand is how you know that summer is finally here. Try doing that with tanbark. I got one word for you; Ouch!
They say that tanbark is safer than sand. Sure fewer kids may get hurt, but I bet an exponential amount get slivers in their hands and feet and face it slivers hurt. Then there's the whole needles to take them out thing and right there people should see the folly of their argument.
I know of which I speak. I went to private school and we had tanbark instead of sand. It hurts just as much to fall on your ass in tanbark as it does to fall on your ass in sand, the only difference being that with tanbark they'll be slivers. When you dig your hands in the sand and rub them together before climbing the perilously high play equipment you get dry hands. When you dig your hands in tanbark and rub them together you get splinters.
Speaking of perilously high play equipment, I've been noticing lately that they seem to be making all the play equipment out of plastic now. Gone was the cool bridge made of logs and the giant tire swing. In it's place you get the stupid plastic tic tac toe game. Seriously is that really a fair trade? Winning a stupid plastic tic tac toe game would never give you the surge of confidence you get from climbing up to the top of the big round jungle gym thing and hanging upside down by your feet.
I wonder if by making all parks ultra safe we're not creating a new generation of wimpy kids who are incapable of making decisions about what's safe and what's not. I'm not saying parks should be really dangerous. I mean hey I'm all for the death of tetherball (although they should probably have removed all those poles from the playground since as a child I kept running into or almost running into them). Maybe the reason kids don't get as much exercise is because all the play equipment sucks. Note to designers, it doesn't have to be dangerous, but it would be nice if it wasn't so boring.
The point I'm trying to make is that kids need adventure. They need challenges and they need sand to stick there feet into when they're stopping the swing. Although, I might be willing to agree to a playground with rubber on the ground if it means we could have all the cool play equipment back. After all you're never too old to go play on the swings.
*Growing up we all had paper routes so in the summer we would fill the bags that we were supposed to use for papers on rainy days, with water and then sit on them while we slid down the slides.