Rachel Porter and others are dreaming big for park playgrounds

Rachel Porter and her children enjoy the Roanoke Park playground, but they also have big dreams for a more modern playground in the near future.

Rachel Porter and her children enjoy the Roanoke Park playground, but they also have big dreams for a more modern playground in the near future.

When Rachel Porter moved to Coleman Highlands a few years ago, she and her children immediately began using the playgrounds at Roanoke Park. While the playgrounds were close to her new Coleman Highlands home, Porter noticed a difference from what she was used to in her old neighborhood.

“We were a little spoiled by the newer playgrounds in Brookside,” she says.

So she was soon asking if there were any plans to update the playground at Roanoke Park. And next thing she knew, she was helping to organize an effort to get updated playgrounds in the park.

Roanoke Park has two areas for kids. One is near the Roanoke Community Center; the other is near the intersection of Karnes and Madison.

The current playground at Roanoke and Madison.

The current playground at Roanoke and Madison.

“This playground is 20 years old,” she said at the Karnes site yesterday. “It was built in the summer of 1994.”

While her kids and many others enjoy the swings, slides and other features, Porter and other parents realize playground technology, so to speak, has changed a lot in 20 years.

“Our idea of what a playground is is changing,” she says.

Porter and Lindsay Severns started their playground updating mission by asking people to join a playground task force made up of parents from the surrounding neighborhoods of Coleman Highlands, Roanoke, Volker and Valentine. They had a workshop that drew 75 people, and brainstorming for a new playground began.

As residents brainstormed, some key themes emerged. People wanted water to be incorporated into the play areas. They wanted the natural landscape of Roanoke Park to be part of the design rather than just plopping a playground pad down in a flat spot. They wanted swings, shade, seating and a sense of community.

Porter imagines a slide built into the hillside at the park, a design in keeping with the new trend toward naturalistic playgrounds that incorporate natural elements of the site.

roanoke playground 3Things have been moving quickly. The playground supporters applied for Public Improvement Advisory Committee (PIAC) funding and got it.

Hufft Projects, a firm that recently moved to the Roanoke Park area, has been helping the supporters plan and design their dream playground.

The park department donated new playground equipment for the south meadow playground near the community center. It’s not exactly the dream design that supporters hope to realize someday, but it’s a big step forward in replacing what’s there today.

That equipment will be constructed and available later this month, following a volunteer building day (see details below).

Porter hopes with everyone working together, ground can be broken for the Karnes playground next spring. She says it will probably need to be built in phases, but the community has developed a great vision for what could happen there.

Playground task force events in June

  • June 14th: volunteers from the 4 surrounding neighborhoods are asked to help construct the new play equipment. Click here to sign up via Sign Up Genius. Anyone is welcome to volunteer to help, but please make sure to find childcare for the kids, since the playground will be in construction and not safe for kids to play around.
  • June 21st:  New playground celebration. The new playground will be open for play and the task force hopes to have face painting, balloon artists, and more. Watch the Roanoke Park Conservancy website for details.


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