The Mercerdale Park playground, also known as Train Park. Courtesy of the City of Mercer Island

The Mercerdale Park playground, also known as Train Park. Courtesy of the City of Mercer Island

City staff, community discuss Mercerdale Park playground renovation

Renovation is included in city council’s biennial budget.

Come this spring, Mercerdale Park’s playground will be getting a new look with fresh equipment, drainage and a rubber play surface.

At a Mercerdale playground renovation virtual public meeting on Feb. 8, city Capital Projects Manager Paul West said the city council has chosen to fund the playground replacement in its 2021-22 Biennial Budget.

Built in 1992, Mercerdale’s playground features a kid-sized train as its main attraction along with traditional structures and slides. Mercerdale — also known as Train Park — sports one of a dozen Island playgrounds and is located at 77th Avenue Southeast and Southeast 32nd Street.

Over the last couple of winters, the playground has experienced clogged drainage by decomposing wood chips, and the city closed the play area last month due to safety concerns and persistent standing water, according to a city press release.

The play equipment has reached the end of its useful life after 19 years, said West, adding that most structures are expected to last 15-20 years. A certified playground safety crew inspects the playgrounds four times a year and determined that Mercerdale’s play area cannot be used without significant repair and renovations, West said.

Chris McGarvey of Northwest Playground, Inc. led a presentation at the meeting regarding the renovation of the play area.

Currently, the playground is split into two areas, one just under 2,500 square feet and another just under 2,400 square feet. Each area has access ramps for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) usage. McGarvey said that by making the current seating wall area more accessible and open to the community could create one uniform surface between the two areas.

“Using this expansion area for surfacing helps us fit even more equipment and utilize equipment in a little bit better way in the site,” said McGarvey, adding that the total site area could be expanded to just over 5,000 square feet and create ADA access all the way around the perimeter.

As far as play character, some meeting attendees were in favor of keeping the train theme while others suggested a hybrid of part of the train with maybe a cave-like ball glove for kids to crawl around inside.

During the play inclusiveness segment of McGarvey’s presentation, people said the play area should be a community gathering place for people young and old of all abilities and include wheelchair access.

“Every fabric of every design conversation for anything new that the manufacturers we work with look at, they’re always talking about inclusiveness,” McGarvey said.

One example was placing monkey bars side by side with one set higher and one lower so that people could play together.

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