Caution: Here Be Dragons

Jan 20, 2012

Did you know that Pasadena has a park made especially for little pirates? Last April, the city opened Reese’s Retreat at Brookside Park. (Walk east from the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center and you’ll find it tucked behind the pools.) Reese’s Retreat is the region’s first universally accessible playground for kids of all ages and abilities — and it’s so cool that the even the most exhausted parent will be tempted to get off the park bench and join in the fun.

The entire setting resembles a pirate ship, complete with bells that clang and wheels that turn and even a plank for the most scurrilous little scallywags to walk. There are multiple levels to explore either by climbing or by using ramps. The setting offers kids of all physical abilities a safe place to scramble around. Even the soft, rubberized ocean floor is wheelchair-friendly.
The design is beautiful, blending into the landscape both playfully and artfully with lots of natural elements and neutral colors. The playground equipment offers the standard variety of things to climb up and slide down, but it also encourages exercise of the imagination with enough high seas props to inspire your inner Jack Sparrow. (Honestly, try not to bust out a hardy “Arrrrrr!” while pretending to hoist one of the ship’s sails.) In a word: wonderful.
It all makes me wonder why South Pasadena can’t create something similar in Lower Arroyo Seco Park? We certainly have the right setting. For four years I’ve driven by our city’s forgotten park and wished that the gorgeous space could be put to better use. Garfield Park and Orange Grove Park have lovely play areas with safe, charming equipment while Arroyo Seco Park looks like a forgotten leftover from The Wonder Years.
I know there is a certain hipster fascination with rusting jungle gyms from the 1960s, but wouldn’t it be more fun to have a safe playscape that local kids (and their parents) could actually enjoy? Not to mention the fact that our large, isolated park area attracts a certain element that really should walk the plank…
I guess it would take a bit of pirate treasure to make it happen, huh?

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