Columbus, Ohio USA
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Goodale Park Welcomes New Playground
City swaps equipment, spruces up site for kids

by Margaret Marten
July/August 2017 Issue

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It's a short walk from Dennison Avenue to the park for this family.
Tami Wiseman leads Scott Miller and their son Max to the playground for some fun.
Photo © Eric Anderson

The Goodale Park playground is prepared to face another generation of wear and tear after a $160,000 replacement completed this spring.

The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department regularly monitors and upgrades the park playgrounds, keeping tabs on their age and condition.

“Most of our playgrounds last about 20 years,” said Jeff Anderson, the department’s parks development specialist. “We typically replace anywhere from four or five, up to seven playgrounds each year.”

It has been almost a quarter century since work was last done on the Goodale Park playground. In 1993 and 1994, two areas were constructed for different age groups: 2- to 5-year-olds and 5- to 12-year-olds. That renovation involved redesigning the landscape as well as the equipment and was more extensive than this year’s.

“We reconfigured the shape of everything,” said Rick Miller, the Recreation and Parks design manager. “We added the seating area. We added some landscaping. And we did a lot of the concrete work around there. We kind of stripped out everything and redid all of it.”

A few pieces of equipment were added in 2008 and those remain, but otherwise this year’s installment is new and the work is considered a replacement – but not a full renovation like the ‘90s. Yet, the types of play features are not too different than before. Both the old and the new equipment include a variety of climbers, slides, bridges, and upper body activities.

However, the roller slide is noticeably absent, reports Eric Anderson, a Victorian Village resident who recounts his daughter’s reaction to its removal in his column the Sesquipedalian Dumpster Diver that regularly appears on the Friends of Goodale Park website: “When I told my daughter that the Goodale Park playgrounds were being replaced, she fondly recalled the short roller slide, the one that made her gleeful squeals quiver with vibrato as the rubber rollers bounced her 2-year-old body down, over and over, into my waiting arms. Her only wish was that the roller slide would still be there. But it’s gone.”

Some important improvements resulted from the recent changes. Engineered wood fiber – a special mulch used to soften impact – still covers much of the ground, but new rubber surfacing in the 5- to 12-year-old area improves accessibility. In addition, ramps now connect to the decks on the slides to allow a child in a wheelchair to get up on the structure and interact with other children.


Edsall and Associates designed this playground in 1978 for Goodale Park. The image shows a portion of the project. Edsallís playground was replaced in the early Ď90s.

The Goodale Park playground has a long history, according to local historian Terry Sherburn.

It was the first playground installed in Columbus when the City Recreation Department was formed in 1910. Playgrounds existed at that time, at schools and other places with the help of organizations like the Godman Guild, but 1910 was the first time a play apparatus was placed in a city park, he said. It came with a supervisor. Supposedly, a person remained in attendance while the facility was in use.

Other than a tot-lot feature added in 1968, the original Goodale Park playground probably remained intact until 1978 when Edsall and Associates, a landscape architecture firm in Victorian Village, was hired to design a new playground along with a master plan for the park with help from a Community Development Block Grant.

“We looked at what was being done around Central Park in New York City,” said Deborah Edsall who worked on the project with her husband, John. “You’d have the Estée Lauder Foundation and different foundations that would fund playgrounds and think nothing of spending $500,000 [in NYC].”

The estimated cost in Columbus, however, which was maybe a tenth of that – yet ten times more than the city department was accustomed to paying – put limitations on what they could do. The Edsalls created an innovative design featuring wooden beams that blended well with the natural environment and appealed to children, but they had to economize: “We had incorporated tires and things like that to stretch the dollars but ensure the play value,” said Edsall. Regardless, Director Melvin Dodge, whose city’s Recreation and Parks Department was taken aback by the cost when the project first began, eventually bought into it. “He would bring people from out of town always to see Goodale Park playground.” said Edsall. The project received a Merit Award from the Ohio Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects.

The subsequent overhaul and reconstruction in the ‘90s, which was designed in-house by the Recreation and Parks Department, introduced the manufactured products we see in playgrounds today, giving children access to gleeful gizmos like the roller slide, musical contraptions and more.

© 2017 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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