November 22, 2009

Unique surface, fun equipment make new Lockwood Park playground a gem

The "Tilted Skyrunner" at Lockwood Park

Lockwood Park is better known for its sledding hill in November than its playground.

But an unseasonably beautiful weekend turned out to be the perfect time for city officials and neighbors to celebrate completion of a community-built playground and other improvements at the city park, located near Ohio Street and Graceland Boulevard.

Alderman Aron Wisneski leads a rededication ceremony on Saturday.

Alderman Aron Wisneski led a brief ceremony to rededicate Lockwood Park. He stood on one of the playground's new bridges with City Administrator Tom Friedel, Parks manager Tom Molbeck and several other people who worked for more than two years to take the playground from an idea to reality.

The Lockwood Park playground is Racine's only "boundless" playground. If you visit, the first thing you'll notice is a bright blue surface underneath the equipment. When you step on it, it has a soft, bouncy feel. The surface is easier to walk on than sand or wood chips used under most playgrounds, but still safe if someone happens to fall.

The boundless surface is designed for children with special needs - like a walker or wheelchair - or adults who have a hard time on uneven surface. For example, a grandparent with a bad hip who still wants to play with their grandchild. It's the first playground of its type in Racine.

The "Xcelerator"

Along with the surface, the playground has some unique equipment. Kids and adults were having fun playing on the "Tilted Skyrunner" and the "Xcelerator," two modern takes on the merry-go-round, a climbing wall and a jungle gym with handicap-accessible ramps. (A few adults noted the equipment looked "dangerous." Designers worked to incorporate risk - because that makes it fun for kids - but to remove hazards, which increase the chances of injury.)

No instructions needed for the new playground.

While kids (and several adults) played on Saturday, Wisneski thanked several people who helped design, pay for and build the playground. Among those thanked by Wisneski included: Don Ricchio, City Schultz, Liz Rosienski, Lisa McFarland, Susan Feehrer, Ben Lake, Amanda DeSonia, Parks Director Donnie Snow and Assistant Parks Director Jack Schumann.

He also thanked the Racine Community Foundation for a grant for the playground and a nearby basketball court.

Neighborhood and community residents helped build the playground back in August. The city then resurfaced the park's parking lot and had to finish up some landscaping work before the playground could officially open on Saturday.

The new basketball court at Lockwood Park

More work is planned for Lockwood Park, Wisneski said. Benches, a butterfly garden and a children's sculpture area area all in the works. But, he added, the real work that needs to be done on the park is for people to enjoy it.

"A playground and park is never done," Wisneski said. "It's only viable as long as we use it."

Alderman Greg Helding (yes, he was riding the Xcelerator; no, he didn't fall off.)

A hawk watched over the new playground on Saturday.


  1. If the city got rid of those two "high priced employees" standing on that bridge, that money could be used for a lot of park upgrades!

  2. Dustin - in addition to Ben Lake, soccer coach at St. Catherine's - his soccer team was instrumental in building the playground! They should be recognized as well!

  3. Yes, of course ... the SCHS boys and girls teams helped build the playground back in August. We wrote a couple stories about their work on the playground in recent months.

  4. molbeck and friedle make way too much for what they do. Start cutting the fat and become a fiscally responsible city!! How many GD managers does the city need???????

  5. The playground is like an oasis in a pile of crud. It's very nice, but looks like it cost more than my house. I wonder why the priorities are pet projects while jobs are leaving. Now we'll take the existing businesses more to make up the shortage, and the flight continues out of Racine.

  6. I love the fact that the playground surfaces were coated with rubber mulch for kid's safety.