September 30, 2006

Recreation in the city

Adventure playground, NYC, c. 1967 Photo in Cranz (1983) The Politics of Park Design Playground, playing field, tot lot are a few of the outdoor recreative spaces in a city. The street, over time, has served as a play space. In fact, structured play activities and spaces, like playgrounds, were instituted in the 19e century to keep children out of the streets! Urban wilds also serve as recreative spaces. J. B. Jackson has written about the use of undeveloped areas, at the edges of the 19e century American cities, used for recreation, in particular, riverbanks. We still have access to wild spaces, now within city limits, as cities expanded and annexed former countryside and suburb. Other spaces for recreation include the adventure playground and the mobile recreation unit. Parnell and Ketterson (1980) describe the use of the adventure playground as follows:

Children are encouraged to construct, to tear down, to rebuild, and to interact freely with the materials…. Adventure playgrounds require the supervision of an adult play leader, whose role is not only to monitor the safety of playground activities, but also to act as a resource person in promoting interesting and challenging play ideas.

Catherine Hannah Behrand (1981 in Taylor's Urban Open Spaces) lists the types of mobile recreation units sponsored by the city of New York in the 1970s: Arts & Crafts, Boxingmobile, Cinemobile, Playmobile, Puppet & Marionette, Sportsmobile, (which led to the) Tennismobile, Skatemobile, Zoomobile, and the Swimmobile (filled by a nearby fire hydrant). New York still provides mobile units, but only eight. In addition to bringing recreation into neighborhoods and to community events, the mobile recreation unit enables the co-presence of neighbors which might lead to various intensities of neighboring. This is true of City Repair's T-Horse, or mobile tea house. City Repair works with neighborhood residents to create community gathering places. The T-Horse was one of the organization's first projects. It is a truck bed with 20-foot wings, pillows, and rugs, and travels to parks and other open spaces to serve tea. Listen to NPR's Adventure Playgrounds a Dying Breed (aired March 2006).

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