Meghan Talarowski discussed the importance of play, best practices for inclusivity and places that are getting the job done.

By Hannah E. Jones, Park Pride’s Marketing & Communications Manager 

Play spaces with innovative designs have triple the physical activity compared to non-inclusive spaces. That’s just one finding that was covered in Park Pride’s recent roundtable exploring the importance of inclusive parks and playgrounds.  

On Wednesday, Sept. 20, internationally recognized play expert Meghan Talarowski led a roundtable highlighting the need to create and invest in play areas that are accessible for all visitors — regardless of ability. Talarowski also discussed the importance of play, best practices for inclusivity and places that are getting the job done.  

“Play is so great because it provides a common experience,” Talarowski said during the program. “That’s what we’re looking to do in playgrounds, we’re trying to use play as a vehicle for connecting with others.”  

The recent roundtable is directly tied to Park Pride’s overarching Parks for All campaign – a three-year, $12.8 million comprehensive campaign to address disparities in park quality and access. Through this roundtable and an upcoming Park Design Workshop with Talarowski, Park Pride is moving from intention to action through its program offerings and its grantmaking program.  

“Through the [Parks for All] campaign, we have sought to educate ourselves and our Friends of the Park groups,” Park Pride Executive Director Michael Halicki said. “Inclusive Play Spaces are an important part of that. With over 140 registered attendees, I feel like we have done a good job engaging our community in an understanding that Parks for All is more than park improvement grants. It is about good design that makes parks more accessible. Play is a basic human right. Our parks and playgrounds need to be designed to promote play and physical activity for all ages and all abilities.”  

During the roundtable, Talarowski walked through the findings from Studio Ludo’s National Study of Playgrounds, which explores how design influences the use and activity at 60 parks in 10 U.S. cities. Talarowski is the founder and executive director at Studio Ludo, a nonprofit working to build better play through research, design and advocacy.  

A few key takeaways include:  

  • Design matters. Playgrounds with innovative designs had twice as many users.  
  • Location matters. Residents who live within a half-mile of a playground are five times more likely to visit weekly than those who live further away.  
  • Environment matters. Playgrounds with mature trees have twice as many visitors as those without trees.  

Talarowski also highlighted the importance of play areas that are open-ended and inviting. Features like climbing structures, berms and splash pads allow many types of play and connection. 

Talarowski pointed to a few playgrounds that are prioritizing inclusivity. For example, E 110th Street Playground in New York City features an ADA-accessible ramp that’s a central component of the design, with other play features lining the pathway.   

Photo by: Studio Ludo.

Inclusive and accessible playgrounds are crucial for children, but this is equally important for the adults who make up 50 percent of the visitors. Play areas can serve as much-needed spaces for adults to get outside and forge stronger connections within their communities. Amenities like restrooms, changing rooms and picnic tables can help meet adults’ needs. As one attendee wrote, “Play is from cradle to grave, everlasting!”  

The conversation doesn’t end here. On Wednesday, Nov. 1, Park Pride will host a Park Design Workshop where Talarowski will join volunteer landscape architects and Friends of the Park groups to put these ideas into practice. All are welcome to join and learn.   

Additionally, Park Pride is gearing up for its annual Parks and Greenspace Conference on March 25. The 2024 theme is “Parks for All: Moving from Intention to Action,” which will include programming centered around park access and inclusivity. A call for presentations will be issued later this month.  

If you’re interested in watching a recording of the program, click here. Additional roundtable resources are linked below.  

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