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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Sadness of Safe Swingsets

Posted by on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 9:26 AM

From a lovely piece, "Swingset at Lincoln Park," Maggie Corrigan produced in the writing class, Writing the City, I taught this fall at Hugo House:

On sunny days, [my daughters and I would] run across a paved walkway to march along a driftwood beach on Puget Sound. During each venture through the expansive park grounds, we’d always stop at the swingset just beyond the baseball field.

The structure had dark silver posts that met at a sharp angle 12 feet up in the air. It was wide enough to hold three regular swings at slightly different heights. Each black seat, suspended in a U shape, was made of a 4 inch wide belt coated in polyethylene. The sling-style would conform to any body width. Children as young as three as well as teens and adults could fit on these swings. Next to them were two baby swings that sat even to each other but much higher off the ground.

...There’s a point in the long arc of the pendulum where centripetal force is overcome by gravity. On a swing, it’s the maximum height off the ground, often felt when your legs are below with feet pointing to the ground. It’s a tiny moment when you need your arms to hold you on the seat. There’s a stillness of suspension, and then falling as you reverse direction. This force hasn’t changed, but perhaps our awareness of it has, or maybe mom, or dad or the nanny stopped reminding the children to “hold on!” I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but park planners reconsidered how children should play, and our tall, beloved swingset in Lincoln Park was replaced.

The modern Seattle park swingset is now a very safe structure designed exclusively for children. It’s often less than 8 feet tall, and placed over pits of spongy bark, or on thick black rubber matting in a designated play area. The seats are molded plastic chairs shaped for small bodies, and while the sling-type seats remain, the chains are much shorter creating quick reversals for fast and frantic action. Even though a city may design for safety, the collective memory and image of a swing remains as an uncomplicated toy for playing outside.

The swings in my childhood were wonderful because they were so dangerous. The long iron chains, the strip of industrial rubber, the whole of the earth, the whole of the sky, the moment of release, the moment of flying, the crashing on the grass. Safety has its limits. Danger has its rewards.
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  • Swings in the CD

 

Comments (31) RSS

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1
yep, modern playground equipment sucks. even my kids know that.
Posted by semi-crepuscular on November 27, 2012 at 10:24 AM · Report this
tedb310 2
There is still an old school swing set at Hiawatha Park in West Seattle.
Posted by tedb310 on November 27, 2012 at 10:30 AM · Report this
3
So outlaw personal injury lawyers and we'll bring them back.
Posted by Brandon J. on November 27, 2012 at 10:32 AM · Report this
4
The seats are molded plastic chairs shaped for small bodies, and while the sling-type seats remain,


So, in other words, they added a plastic molded seat accessible to smaller kids and those with disabilities, while retaining the other swings too.

In my extensive recent experience taking my kiddo to the playground, the molded plastic seats are pretty damn popular among all sizes of kids; there's often a wait to get on that seat, while the plain old strap-style ones sit empty.
Posted by shabadoo on November 27, 2012 at 10:32 AM · Report this
5
Also, there's a ton of awesome modern play structures out there. In Charles's beloved CD, near MLK and Yesler:
http://www.seattle.gov/parks/_images/par…
Posted by shabadoo on November 27, 2012 at 10:34 AM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 6
In my day we had to walk barefoot ten miles to school every day in four feet of snow. Uphill. Both ways! It was good for us! We liked it. Kids today got it so good blah blah blah my generation was the greatest blah blah I'm better than you come suck my cheesy dick blah blah blah
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on November 27, 2012 at 10:56 AM · Report this
7
Ohhh, this is rich, nanny state liberals complaining about the effects of nanny state liberalism (and its allies, the trial lawyers), where personal responsibility is replaced by the out-sourcing of all stupid choices and decisions in life to someone else, someone with deep pockets you can sue/tax/regulate?
Posted by Sugartit on November 27, 2012 at 11:01 AM · Report this
8
Yeah, but can you sit and wind it up so that you spin until you lose your pancakes from breakfast?
Posted by Senor Guy on November 27, 2012 at 11:04 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 9
There is, or was, a tall swingset at the NW corner of Woodland Park, along with a modern play structure. Is it still there? Haven't been there in a couple of years. At age 11, my daughter is getting too busy for many trips to the playground. :-(
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on November 27, 2012 at 11:07 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 10
100% agreement. What made swings fun was the height, the speed, the realization that you were weightless, and the heavy thud of your ass slamming back into the rubber strap as gravity catches up.

I always loved leaning way forward on the backswing, so that you are essentially at height, but looking straight down at the ground, and then it snaps you back forward right when it looks like you are going to faceplant into the ground on the way back.

Still love that feeling.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on November 27, 2012 at 11:21 AM · Report this
Rotten666 11
Seattle municipal archives has photos of the insane playground at Lincoln (Cal Anderson Park) back in the day. If you're bored go sniff them out...it's definitely worth it.
Posted by Rotten666 on November 27, 2012 at 11:43 AM · Report this
Posted by Rotten666 on November 27, 2012 at 11:44 AM · Report this
Rotten666 13
oops, make that Broadway Playfield.

http://clerk.seattle.gov/~scripts/nph-br…
Posted by Rotten666 on November 27, 2012 at 11:46 AM · Report this
14
I was going to say, but @9 beat me to it, that there are still some tall swingsets in Seattle, one of the best being the one by the Woodland Park Zoo, just off Phinney. In Summer or Fall you can get so high it feels like you will enter the tree canopy.

Another tall one is in Cowen Park (I think it is called) near Ravenna Park. As a connoisseur, I'd appreciate hearing about any other high swing sets in the area.
Posted by Jude Fawley on November 27, 2012 at 11:46 AM · Report this
Rotten666 15
@14 In the interior of Seward Park.
Posted by Rotten666 on November 27, 2012 at 11:50 AM · Report this
Beetlecat 16
@7 the social safety net and an actual safety net are very different things. It's not our fault you can't think critically.
Posted by Beetlecat on November 27, 2012 at 11:52 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 17
@ 14, there used to be some tall swingsets at Lincoln Park, within view of the ferry dock. But I haven't been there for maybe 10 years, so I have no idea if they're still there.
Posted by Matt from Denver on November 27, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Report this
Beetlecat 18
@17 -- those are the subject of the piece quoted in Charles' post. ;D
Posted by Beetlecat on November 27, 2012 at 11:59 AM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 19
Seattle has awesome playgrounds with many tall swings still available. The tallest swing set I have ever seen is in Cowen Park.

I see no problem with having soft landing zones.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings http://www.reddit.com/r/spaceclop on November 27, 2012 at 12:09 PM · Report this
WFM 20
He's right. Few things are more demoralizing than a playground designed by a lawyer.
Posted by WFM on November 27, 2012 at 12:16 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 21
@7- Seattle (the "rich nanny state") has the best god damn playgrounds I've seen, with merry-go-rounds, tall swings, tall climbing structures and everything.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings http://www.reddit.com/r/spaceclop on November 27, 2012 at 12:16 PM · Report this
nartweag 22
I sure miss doing back flips off swings (at the not quite high end of the forward arc). Even if they made swings the same as they used to, my adult body just wouldn't cooperate anymore.
Posted by nartweag on November 27, 2012 at 12:45 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 23
@10 With you all the way, man. Jumping off a tall swing at varying points of the arc was my first understanding of physics.
My 6th grade school had a 4 seat extra tall swing set that was the tits. Pull two of the seats out of the way and do a dizzying egg-beater, or have all four going with someone running through them. I ended up with some badly bruised ribs after one collision, but couldn't wait to get back on the horse.

Ah, childhood....
Posted by Sir Vic on November 27, 2012 at 12:51 PM · Report this
24
As a nanny, I am in parks and playgrounds five days a week. I can tell you that the BEST SWINGS IN TOWN are at Cowen Park. There is also a zip line (and not too long ago, a seven-foot python on the loose). Hooray for danger!
Posted by Totalpukoid on November 27, 2012 at 1:10 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 25
@22- I saw a young man (late teens, early 20s) doing that off a short swing set. It looked awesome and I'm pretty sure I'd break my neck trying it. It's a funny stunt because pretty much the only injury I can see it causing is a neck injury.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings http://www.reddit.com/r/spaceclop on November 27, 2012 at 1:12 PM · Report this
--MC 26
I wonder sometimes why I am still alive and typing this, with all the foolish stuff I did when I was a kid. In fourth grade I invented a game where I'd run through the swinging people on the swingset at JUST THE RIGHT TIME and avoid getting clocked by their fast moving forms. Why am I not dead just now?
Posted by --MC on November 27, 2012 at 1:32 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 27
@ 18 - oops.
Posted by Matt from Denver on November 27, 2012 at 2:15 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 28
@26 If you had tried that game around us 6th graders, you probably would be dead now.
Posted by Sir Vic on November 27, 2012 at 3:12 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 29
@26

A lot of your generation is dead, compared to the current one. We have data that says so. You know the reason why the life expectancy of a kid born in 2005 is higher than one born in 1995 or 1985 or 1975 is not because we have cured cancer or eradicated heart disease or eliminated strokes. The life expectancy is higher for no reason except that fewer kids born in 2005 went out and got killed for a preventable reason at age 3 or 5 or 6.

And the "coddled" younger generation with their safer bike helmets and car seats and playgrounds went and performed magnificently in Iraq and Afghanistan. They hacked and jailbreaked the iPhone in less than 24 hours. They're actually better than us. The "greatest generation" is the one growing up in front of us right now.

So everyone shut the fuck up. Shut up about lawyers. Technology is progressing. We're learning from our mistakes and doing things smarter. You think your childhood was pure fucking magic. Unicorns and wonder, I'm sure. Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly each think we should turn back the clock to make the world look the same as it did when they were 7. It's a stupid idea.

The kids today are fine.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on November 27, 2012 at 4:44 PM · Report this
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