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Playground Friction
Photo:David Resseguie
Playgrounds were destinations of choice for a lot of children when they were growing up. Now as young adults they are demanding that those same playgrounds be modified to include volleyball courts and dog parks.

The U.S. Census Bureau says that young adults (ages 25-39) outnumber children ages 14 and younger in the District of Columbia and the Northern Virginia cities of Arlington and Alexandria. In most of the other Metropolitan Washington area counties, there are only two or three percentage points difference between the two age groups.

The October 8, 2006, Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) highlighted the strain between parents and young adults over the design of treasured urban green space. “When a developer announced plans last summer to raze a public volleyball court in Arlington [Virginia] to guild a playground for a new day-care center, Carla Reinisch and other players fought back.

“The group of young professionals launched a petition drive on a local Internet networking site. They testified at hearings, reminding county officials that players routinely packed the trio of sandy courts in Crystal City. In the meantime, parents said their neighborhood desperately needed day care.

“Proponents of the playground ‘made it us versus them; it was not volleyball players versus the kids,’ said Reinish, 27, of Arlington. ‘We didn’t have anything against the playground. We just didn’t want it on top of our volleyball court.’

Brokered a Deal

“In the end, Arlington County brokered a deal. The tot lot would go in, but to appease the volleyball lobby, the county would build a set of courts in a nearby park.

“In the dense inner suburbs—where there is precious little parkland—young professionals such as Reinisch are battling with parents over tiny scraps of land no bigger than regulation-size basketball courts. Kids might still need swing sets, the thinking goes, but young adults—now a sizeable chunk of the population—want their play space, too.”

Change is a consistent element in life. With the concern about obesity, it’s encouraging to learn that at least some young adults are leading active lives. The Post article cited other tussles as planners try to balance demand for play space. For instance in Arlington and Alexandria, there is a ban on adding new adult teams for softball and other leagues. Alexandria also is searching for grassy space on which set up two soccer fields.|

Tensions are running high in one Arlington neighborhood where a 2,000 square foot park has had a $400,000 transformation so that dogs have a place to play. Another change is the increasing number of soccer fields that include artificial turf and floodlights. More working adults want to play after work, and they believe their tax dollars should fund such facilities. Plus, demand is increasing for more flexible scheduling.

So, who is using the playgrounds in your community? Are the community planners in your area taking into consideration the increasing diverse needs for recreation?

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