Rough playground fun back in style

By Kathryn Powley

The biggest slide at the Tui Glen playground in Henderson is closed after two children hurt themselves. Photo Greg Bowker.
The biggest slide at the Tui Glen playground in Henderson is closed after two children hurt themselves. Photo Greg Bowker.

Call it a rare victory for the anti-PC brigade - a more challenging type of playground is here to stay, despite one local body temporarily closing a slide last week after children sustained bruising.

Steep slides and towering climbing frames have been installed in seven New Zealand locations by Wanganui company Playground Centre. One community leader welcomes the playgrounds after decades of boring swings and gentle slides, cushioned by rubber mats.

But one of the new slides sent shudders through the Auckland Council last week and was closed after two youngsters suffered minor injuries.

The Tree Tops Play Space at Tui Glen Reserve in Henderson includes an eagle's nest, rope bridges, flying foxes and tube slides descending from three large wooden towers. The development cost $600,000 and has been such a hit since opening in September that the Auckland Council wants to create other "destination playgrounds".

But the longest and steepest of the tube slides is boarded up and the council plans to make it safer for smaller children. Council parks manager for West Auckland, Grant Jennings, said the slide was closed as a precaution. "[The children] received some bruising and grazes, mainly caused from knocking and rubbing on the sides of the slide."

One was aged 5 and the other was a "young child" of unknown age. The tube slides were designed with older children in mind, Jennings said.

The council had tried to make the playground more challenging and interesting - the slide was designed with a sudden drop so children could bounce against the sides. "It's got a bit of a kink in it which we're going to get it more on a gradual curve."

Signs would also be put up to warn parents not to slide in tandem with their children, which could cause adults to fall on top of their kids.

Henderson-Massey Local Board chairwoman Vanessa Neeson said people were coming from far and wide to try out the playground.

"It's so great that we're now out of that mould of building little slides and little swings and rubber mats. It's about teaching the kids to enjoy being kids and take some risks."

Jennings said Tui Glen was a "destination park". Other parks are being planned, such as a $1 million playground to open at Parrs Park, Oratia, around Christmas.

Though the Tui Glen structures are designed so very small children can't climb up to tube slides on their own, when we visited this week 3-year-old Holly Sanderson did exactly that. Her aunt said although Holly loved the slide, it was a bit steep and would be better if changed.

Playground Centre chief executive Simon Filleul said a balance was needed. "The council has been really good. They're not out to wrap everything up in cotton wool. They've been quite practical and proactive."

A similar playground was recently installed at Chelsea Primary School on Auckland's North Shore.

Chairwoman Ingrid van Rijn said: "The thing is with playgrounds, you're always going to get bumps and bruises."

Sure it's fast but it's also fun

The first time, it's an act of faith.

You've seen others going before, screaming with excitement all the way, jumping out at the bottom, and rushing straight back to do it again.

Then it's your turn. You tentatively sit on the brink as a queue builds up behind, take a deep breath, then let go.

Down into the darkness, gathering speed, heart in mouth, around the bend, wondering how to slow down, then arriving at the bottom seconds later.

My 5-year-old gleefully launches down into the abyss on his own, but my 3-year-old will only go in tandem with me. I now know the council says this is a no-no, but since we've already perfected our technique, we won't be stopping.

He sits down, I sit behind him, my legs out around him, my feet acting as brakes.

I don't object to changes to this slide - it is kind of scary, and I know grown men who agree with me - but so long as there's a tube slide coming out of these towers, fun is compulsory.

- Herald on Sunday

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