Facility includes 3-level tree house, exercise machines for adults
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Growing up near Oak Tree Park in Brentwood in the 1980s and ‘90s, Matt Raithel remembers catching crawdads in the creek there. Fancy playground equipment? Forget it.
Actually, they did have a slide. Somebody had dragged an old, metal section of a playground slide down to a hill near the creek and the kids played on it.
So Matt, now with two young children of his own, was thrilled to be at Oak Tree Park on Saturday for the ribbon cutting of the new playground area. Construction was recently completed on a large recreation area that includes slides, swings, ladders, a rope bridge, a three-level concrete tree house and even exercise equipment for adults. It’s all contained on a bouncy rubber landing pad that should minimize boo-boos.
“We’ve come back a couple of times and seen the playground that was over here previously,” said Raithel, who now lives in Springfield, Mo. “This new one is pretty amazing.”
The City of Brentwood paid North Carolina-based Cunningham Recreation $250,000 to design and build the playground. Construction began on Labor Day.
“We sent out a request for design to companies to make a playground that incorporates into the overall feel of the park,” said Brentwood Recreation Superintendent Eric Gruenenfelder. “Cunningham won because they brought in a lot of the tree aspects, such as the tree house, which fits in with all the beautiful trees of Oak Tree Park.”
The playground is located at the bottom of the hill that’s used for sledding in the winter.
“We made sure there’s still enough room to sled,” said Gruenenfelder. “We are very conscious of having plenty of green space here. The area where the old playground was will be green space. So the green space goes east-west instead of north-south.
At least 100 people, mostly children, dropped by the park on Saturday for the two-hour celebration. After the ribbon was cut by Mayor Pat Kelly, City Administrator Bola Akande, Ward 2 Alderman Lee Wynn and Gruenenfelder, a free lunch was provided by the Maplewood Commons Planet Sub restaurant. A face painter and a balloon sculptor were also on hand.
But the star of the show was the new playground equipment.
“The big feature is the tree house,” said Gruenenfelder. “We love this. It’s a new feature in playgrounds. It’s really realistic. You come in under the slide and there’s this winding staircase up into a clubhouse. The tree is made of concrete – it’s 7,000 pounds in two pieces.”
Most of the equipment is atop a poured-in-place rubber surface for soft landings. Decorative leaf cutouts made of a harder rubber are in the high-traffic areas, such as at the bottom of slides.
“If it [the leaf] wears out, you just have to replace the cutout instead of the whole surface,” said Gruenenfelder.
The playground is 80 percent to 90 percent wheelchair accessible, said Gruenenfelder.
The equipment includes two elliptical-style gliders, which were very popular during the party on Saturday.
“This is something new in playground trends,” said Gruenenfelder. “It’s fitness equipment for parents, so they can do a workout while they’re watching their kids.”