If we think back to playtime when we were kids, there was no limit to our imagination. If you could believe it, you could become it. We swung from vine to vine on Jungle gyms, played cops and robbers on dome climbers, and reigned as kings and queens from the highest structure in the playground. So, when we saw the new space-themed design for Carteret Park in Elizabeth, NJ, we immediately became intrepid adventurers setting out to explore the great beyond.
Carteret Park serves as the playground for the Abraham Lincoln school as well as a neighborhood park for residents. Seeing as this space was pulling double duty, it was recently renovated to create a diverse, multi-generational park. But the centerpiece of it all is the brand-new spaceship playground.
Houston, We have Lift-Off
When Gus DeBlasio, senior project manager of landscape architecture, set out to design Carteret Park Playground, he learned the 50th anniversary of the moon landing would take place not long after the grand opening. So, every piece of playground equipment was custom-made to celebrate this monumental achievement for mankind.
A USA spaceship complete with booster jets sits in the center of the park. Space explorers can climb aboard and take off down the slides or book passage to other planets at the Solar System ticket counter. Children between the ages two and five can explore new worlds in an area designated just for them. In this space, the equipment is lower to the ground to reduce likely fall damage.
On the opposite side, an astronaut training facility offers inclusive amenities for children and adults with disabilities. These components allow individuals of different abilities to play together, ensuring no one is left out.
Decorative aerospace iconography can be found throughout the whole space. Additionally, all the play equipment sits on poured-in-place rubber, an attenuating and porous surface that reduces the risk of serious injury. All these unique elements create a cohesive theme and enable the imaginations of children to run wild.
Building a Strong Community
The space theme wasn’t the only consideration when designing the park. As outdoor play can be crucial in developing children’s muscle groups, and in turn, improve fine motor skills, the project team designed the playground to aid in this growth. Much of the equipment is focused on adolescents having to pull or lift their body weight. Additionally, impression swings invite both parent and child to swing at the same time, increasing involvement and enabling them to share in their experiences.
The project team also implemented versatile features for adults. A fitness zone hosts equipment targeting different parts of the body. These stations enable users to stay active and healthy without the membership cost of a gym. A full-sized basketball court also promotes activity among park-goers. Lastly, a passive walking path wraps around and bisects the site, perfect for joggers and dog-walkers.
Utilizing Existing Resources
Rather than purchase an expensive shade structure, the design team opted to utilize the natural canopy. A 200-year-old oak tree sits in the middle of the new playground. Special consideration was given to not disturb its roots. A curvilinear design wraps the park around the base of the tree, and an undulating surface aligns with the existing topography to minimize impact on the roots. Over 20 new trees were planted as well.
Carteret Park has truly become a multi-generational space, inviting residents of all ages and abilities to come together for relaxation and amusement. We’re sure the imaginations of its users will take them on some exciting adventures!