Public spaces like parks and playgrounds are vital to any community. They provide a venue for people of all ages and abilities to come together, get active, develop and practice social and cognitive skills, and enjoy the great outdoors.
But the question is, how can you build a great park or playground without breaking the bank? The answer lies in careful planning, smart decisions, and a bit of creativity. In this blog, we will take you through three case studies of parks the MRC team worked on, each with varying budgets.
Making A Big Community Impact on a Small Park Budget
Creating a memorable and impactful park doesn't always require a hefty budget. One of our favorite ways to maximize small budgets is by creating pocket parks, like the Applby Park in Ocean Township, New Jersey. These compact play areas, generally built on single vacant building lots or on small, irregular pieces of land, include a traditional playground structure complemented by freestanding play components.
For instance, a freestanding Expression Swing, Merry-Go-All, or some musical instruments can pack a cost-effective and engaging punch. These elements not only provide enjoyable play experiences but also promote social interaction, sensory development, and physical activity, as well as multi-generational play. Pocket parks can also include some seating, landscaping, or even artwork!
When it comes to safety surfacing, choices like engineered wood fiber or rubber mulch can be budget-friendly without compromising safety. They provide a cushioning effect that helps prevent injuries, making them an intelligent choice for small-budget parks.
A Total Park Transformation Using a Mid-Size Budget
With a mid-size budget, you can bring about a total transformation of a park, just like we did with Bernie Cooke Park. One of the critical steps was to install two separate playground structures catering to children ages 2-5 and 5-12. This ensured age-appropriate play opportunities for all kids. For instance, the slides in the 2-5 age group section of the park are much shorter than the other portion of the playground. The section for older children also has more climbing structures, as older children typically have better balance and strength.
Mid-size budget parks like this could (and should!) include spaces for resting and gathering, such as benches,picnic tables, and pavilions. For safety surfacing, when budgeting permits, go for a unitary surface like poured-in-place rubber, rubber tiles, or synthetic playground turf, which are more durable and require less maintenance.
If inclusivity is a goal, consider integrating accessible pathways from the parking lot and extending that design goal throughout the playground structure. A ramped playground structure and accessible freestanding playground items can also make your mid-sized budget park a more enjoyable environment for people of all abilities and ages.
Building a Whole New World Using A “Dream Park” Budget
When budget is not a primary concern, the sky's the limit. We can bring any concept to life, from outer space and animal themes to treehouses, castles, and more. These custom and themed playground environments are often constructed of Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC) or Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer (GFRP). While GFRC allows for intricate designs, GFRP is lighter and easier to transport and install.
To kick it up a notch, a custom entranceway can be a great touch, creating a sense of anticipation and excitement. Furthermore, a large pavilion with picnic tables and site amenities elevates the park to a new level, providing a space for community events and gatherings. Truly, with a “dream park” budget, you take any idea and run with it.
Make Your Playground or Park a Reality No Matter Your Budget!
At MRC, we firmly believe that great parks are possible on any budget. Whether it's a compact pocket park or a custom-themed playground, careful planning, creativity, and a focus on community needs can yield a space that brings joy, fosters connections, and serves as a beloved community hub for years!