Over the course of the past four years or so, parks all over the city have gotten a face lift. Somehow, Central Tacoma seemed to end up at the end of the line. At long last, three center city parks are receiving playground upgrades: Franklin, Wright, and McCarver. This summer I ran into Ms. Darcy and her toddler Max at Franklin Park, where he was magnetically attracted to the orange caution tape that was supposed to signal to pre-verbal children that they should not climb the decaying remnants of the Big Toy. We talked about feeling a little bit less than excited about the parks in her area, and hoping that some of the promised upgrades would come sooner rather than later. As I drove by Franklin Park this week the kids started bouncing around yelling about a new playground, naturally I had to stop and take some pictures.
Franklin's upgrades are funded by bond money approved by the voters in 2005. Because of the dilapidated state of the playground, this portion of the project got a little bump up in priority this past summer. By this coming summer, playground program participants should be able to play on the beautiful new Kompan equipment, and ride their bikes around the new sidewalk. I really like the looks of the playground design, which is located away from busy streets and grouped in a compact circle perfect for watching multiple little kids. I'd also heard good things about the new playground going in at Wright Park, so we took a little drive over to investigate. The existing playground at Wright was actually one of the nicer ones in the city, prior to all these upgrades, but park planners wanted to restore the original site lines and design of the park. This called for moving the playground over next to the newly restored central restrooms. Probably because the kids really seem to like the existing design, the new playground retains the big swirly metal slide and the general look and feel of the old playground. Also in keeping with the current set up, the new playground will have plenty of shade from Wright Park's many mature trees. The new design also features a spray ground, which I hope will be operational by summer. My kids really miss Wright's wading pool, which was one of the deepest in Tacoma. I don't know the name of the equipment manufacturer, but I particularly like the look of this playground - especially for a classic park like Wright. I have been hearing about good things happening at McCarver Park for years, but in the current economic climate it didn't seem like the Linnik Project would ever be able to put together the necessary funds to bring their vision of a new park for McCarver area kids to fruition. Last night, I met up with McCarver teacher Lori Goodrich who encouraged me to stop by and take a look at their recent progress. Wow! In addition to the usual Kompan play equipment we see at many area parks, workers have been hard at work installing Ukrainian-inspired tile work and giant "eggs" around the perimeter. The park design is meant to celebrate the life of McCarver student Zina Linnik, who was of Ukrainian heritage. I took my photos on a rainy windy night, through a fence, but you can find much better ones at the Metro Parks site. Not only is the park looking great, but it also brings out the beauty of McCarver elementary, one of the oldest school buildings in Tacoma. The official grand opening celebration is planned for this spring, when the new grass will be ready. All three of these parks are still surrounded by construction fencing, so give the workers space to do their work for now and get ready to enjoy them this spring and summer.