Playgrounds are not always what they seem. For children, slides become roller coasters, poles become cliffs and swings change into time machines. Suddenly, the playground in the prairie is now a castle in medieval England or a pirate ship on the ocean.
The Wichita area has dozens of playgrounds, including some hidden gems that make a trip to the playground a magical experience.
For that young knight and little princess, Augusta houses Robert Shryock Park on Ohio Road near Augusta City Lake. This unique playground, which was built by community volunteers, has spires and wooden and stone platforms.
Several years ago Wichita updated three of its parks with new play systems.
“Our newest and most exciting play systems have been in for about three to five years,” said Doug Kupper, the city’s park and recreation director. “These play systems allow the kids to climb and exercise their large muscles.”
These state-of-the-art playgrounds are located at Buffalo Park on Maize near Central, Dr. Glen Dey Park near Hillside and 27th Street North and at the South Lakes Sports Complex at 47th Street South and Meridian.
Each park includes an obstacle-type climbing course with a series of black cables that look like giant spider webs. These slick, metal and plastic structures also contain a few slides, several types of monkey bars, and innovative swinging steps that are attached by cable and move as the child climbs from one to the other. There also are large plastic “O” shapes that create an above-ground movable tunnel.
The Buffalo Park playground combines two extra-large units with many swings off to the side. The Dey playground has one unit, some swings and several fun, if a bit weathered, climbing toys. Although in disrepair, the large buffalo, stagecoach and climbing silo – with emerald green slides – are fun for the little ones. There is also an art wall and an engraved sidewalk featuring dinosaur bones.
In the older kids’ area, a curly sea monster spits a steady stream of water, while tumble buckets fill up and continually dump larger amounts on unsuspecting kids. Parents and caregivers can watch from shaded benches.
“We want them (the grandparents) to bring the little kids out,” Kupper said.
Another tot playground is going up near Central and Murdock.
To the east of Wichita, Andover has two large parks and several smaller ones. The 13th Street Sports Park, on 13th near Andover Road, has the usual sports fields, plus horseshoe pits and a nature path. Andover Central Park at 1607 E. Central has a stocked fishing lake and an arboretum.
The Maize City Park at Central and Khedive sits on a little more than five acres and sports a refurbished playground with lots of fun climbing facilities. Like the three newer playgrounds in Wichita, this one offers terrific climbing options. The kid-safe jungle gyms are in red, blue and yellow. There is also a skateboard section and bicycle paths.
The Wichita Park and Recreation Department is hosting a scavenger hunt this summer.
Park passports will be available at neighborhood recreation centers and O.J. Watson Park beginning May 25. Participants who find the signs and clues at specific parks may turn in their completed passports to be entered in a drawing that will give away four bicycles and a tent with sleeping bags and air mattresses from Academy Sports. Call 316-268-4361 for more information.