Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Black Hill Regional Park is first in state to get new ‘playsystem’

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They don’t make playground equipment like they used to and they don’t even call it playground equipment anymore.

The new spherical configuration of pipes that opened in March at Black Hill Regional Park in Boyds is a ‘‘high-fitness playsystem.”

The system’s bright red pipes intersect and run parallel to each other to form a dome that also includes black netting for climbing, rings, benches and a slide without guard rails. The Evos system is only part of the equipment that was installed at 6,000 to 7,000 square-foot site. The remainder is more conventional equipment the county bought from a Swedish manufacturer.

The Evos system is designed to encourage children ‘‘to play longer and with more physical exertion,” according to a statement from the manufacturer, Minnesota-based Landscape Structures Inc.

It offers limitless options for moving through the structure, thereby producing a more varied and challenging play experience, said Greg Stone, president of Arbor Recreation, a Sterling, Va., firm that serves as regional representative for Landscape.

‘‘It is a much more interesting system and, quite frankly, it is where playground equipment is going,” Stone said.

Kathy Dearstine, a landscape architect with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said Evos is more expensive than teeter-totters, swing sets and other traditional playground equipment. New playground equipment typically costs her agency about $60,000 to $75,000 for the equipment and construction, but the playground project at Black Hill cost $83,714 for the equipment only, she said. The equipment was installed by county work crews, unlike some playground projects in which the work is done by contractors.

But Dearstine insists she had good, practical reasons for making Black Hill the first park in Maryland to try the Evos equipment. The park was set to receive new equipment under a rotating schedule in which 10 to 12 playgrounds in the county park system are renovated every year, she said.

‘‘Since I already had a traditional playground not too far from that location, I decided to put in something new and innovative so the kids would have a different play experience,” she said.

With the arrival of spring, the real experts, the youngsters who climb, swing from, perch on and twist around playground equipment are weighing in with their opinions. Michael Kerisch, 9, and his sister, Danielle, 8, of Damascus, were in high spirits as they tried out the Evos last week.

‘‘I’m a monkey,” Danielle shouted triumphantly as she scrambled among the bars.

‘‘I like the design with the ropes you climb on,” Michael said.

Their mother, Colleen Kerisch said Evos appeared to be delivering on its promise of encouraging more strenuous exercise.

‘‘They definitely get a lot of upper body workout on this by climbing up the rope and stuff,” she said.

The Evos is designed for youngsters ages 5 to 12. While Michael and Danielle approved of Evos, Michael said his favorite piece of equipment at the new playground was a merry-go-round that is not part of the Evos design. He also tempered his praise for Evos in comparing it to the older, more traditional equipment at other playgrounds.

‘‘That was just as much fun as this one,” he said.

While park planners wait for more reaction from youngsters, Dearstine has decided to have another, smaller model installed at the Flower Avenue playground in Silver Spring.

Jim McMahon, the park manager at Black Hill also praised the new playground, which is located 100 yards or so from the older playground.

‘‘We’re super pleased with it,” he said. ‘‘It’s a very nice setting among the trees there, and it’s kind of cool to be one of the first ones to have this equipment.”