Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Garden and the Playground

I make no secret for my love of the blog Playscapes: here's a wonderful article from there, reposted in toto with permission:

The Garden and the Playground

Children's Play Provision c. 1809

Children's Play Provision c. 2009

The concatenation of the garden and the playground is so rooted in the history of play that it's strange we ever forgot it...but the equipment based play-deserts of the last fifty or so years, with nary a plant or a path in sight, show that we did.

There are two main historical antecedents for the modern conception of the playground, and they both come from Germany. The first was the creation of sand gardens (see also A Brief History of the Sandbox).  In the late 19th century, piles of sand were dumped in public parks as an antidote to the delinquency of street urchins, in hopes of giving them something to do other than bother the keepers and customers of the shops that surrounded the parks.

The sand gardens of Germany represent the first organized insertion of children's play into public space. The  idea quickly spread to other countries, including to Boston where the 1886 'Committee on Sand Gardens' became by 1888 the  'Committee on Playgrounds'.  But most importantly, the sand gardens' social engineering ideals--that positive behaviors can be encouraged and negative ones reduced through appropriate play provision--have remained ever after a significant part of the playground conversation.

"If the authorities should order a sand heap put in every back yard of our cities, being especially careful not to neglect the tiny inclosures around which the very poor hive together, there would be less vagabondage and less youthful ruffianism. The child must needs be busy, and lacking legitimate means of occupation he will seek out those that are unlawful." 

"In of the beautiful acts of the Empress Frederick...was to set apart certain portions of all public parks for play-grounds, with sand hills upon them, for the little children. Any one who has frequented the parks of the larger German cities knows what an attractive picture the children make in their busy, happy play of digging and packing and building in the easily moulded soil."

Two distinctive views of children are represented in these quotes from Nora Archibald Smith's 1896 The Republic of Childhood.  First we see the child as an unlawful ruffian--a delinquent--then as a picturesque darling engaged in busy happy play.

If the sand gardens addressed the delinquent, the Kinder Gartens of Germany were for the darling.  Here we are not speaking of the early childhood schools of Friedrich Froebel.  That doesn't come along until 1840, when Froebel used the term to replace what he had originally titled his (loosely translated)  "Play and Activity Institute".

As this garden plan from 1809 points out, the idea of a garden for children existed well prior to Froebel.  But these were gardens of privacy and of privilege, either at grand homes or sometimes exclusive schools, for the use of children assumed to be far better behaved (by breeding if not inclination) than those lower-class delinquents.   The darling child is  provided with a comprehensively designed landscape that includes swinging, races and ballgames, a bowling pitch, a botanical garden for learning about plants, a cowshed for learning about animals, and a house for parties and dancing.

What this early plan, and others like it, brought to the playground conversation was the idea of intentional design for the child.  Eventually this would be extended to public space as well as private, and to all children as well as the privileged.

I'm struck by how public playgrounds began with the idea of the child as delinquent, and have circled today to view the child as, well, diseased.  Suffering from a nature deficit and a play deficit, under threat from strangers and bullies and too-tall-slides and monkey bars on which they might bump their little heads.  In a final insult, we've rejected even the grass itself as unsafe, to be covered up with rubber safety surfacing.  Boo, grass.   That's where your view of the child gets you.   

[The image of the 1809 Kinder Garten is from
Allgemeines teutsches Garten-Magazin oder gemeinnützige Beiträge für alle Theile des praktischen Gartenwesens, available online at Königliche Gartenbibliothek Herrenhausen - Drucke / Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek - Niedersächsische Landesbibliothek.  Link provided by peacay ofbibliodyssey.]

The Garden and the Playground
by Paige Johnson, author of  Playscapes

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Oktoberfest 5K - Sept 29 - Mary Holmes Park

This is always a great event; be sure to check it out.  

The 3rd Annual Carolina Brewery Oktoberfest 5k to be held on Sat, Sept. 29th at Mary Hayes Barber Holmes Park in the Powell Place neighborhood, directly across 15-501 from the Carolina Brewery & Grill in Pittsboro.

Registration begins 7:30am on race day. There will also be a Happy Hour Registration on Sept. 28 at the Pittsboro brewery from 5 to 7pm. Online Registration is here

After the race there is a complimentary breakfast and awards ceremony at Carolina Brewery & Grill. All participants receive free admission to our Oktoberfest party that evening beginning at 5pm. The Abundance Foundation will receive a portion of race proceeds! Fleet Feet of Carrboro is the brewery's partner for the race.

Additional parking will be available at BB&T. When parking on the street, please use just one side of the road.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Former Governor Hunt on the value of Parks

I just happened to catch this segment Wilderness Next Door, an episode of the excellent UNCTV series Exploring North Carolina.  This was episode 607 described as follows:

"State and national parks are important to North Carolina and the quality of life we enjoy. Many of us, however, do not have easy access to large parks and wild places.

As this state grows, and more people live in an urban environment, it is critical that greenways and parks are set aside. Such public lands in and near our towns and cities are not only important for recreation and environmental education, but equally important for the economic vitality.

Join us as we explore North Carolina’s urban parks and greenways—"wilderness next door.""

In the episode, former Governor Jim Hunt speaks about the value of Parks in troubled economic times.  Luckily someone captured this key segment on YouTube:

When is the best time to acquire parkland?  Hunt: "Well tough economic times are the very times when economically we ought to seize the moment.  Seize the moment for our environmental future yes, but for our economic future. . . for our jobs. . . " Watch the embedded video for the rest of his statement.

As an aside, Gregory Poole Jr. was featured in the program as a prominent advocate for parks in general and the Raleigh Central Park proposal in particular.  Mr. Poole has roots in Pittsboro; in fact his great uncle, a superintendent at Chatham Mills, donated the land for the W.P.A. built Pittsboro Community House.  I'm proud of Pittsboro's long heritage of valuing parks and recreation.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dragon Sighting at Pittsboro Park

Hide your children; a dragon has been seen lounging around Mary Hayes Barber Holmes Park.  

Artist Forrest Greenslade led the project with assistance from fellow artist/ stonemason Joe Kenlan and myself. Greenslade and crew volunteered our time for the project. 

Glassblower Jonathan Davis created the eyes.  

Forrest has a post on his blog detailing the construction process.  

It's been a fun project; we'll see how it holds up to the weather and its use in a public setting.  I could see an expansion of the project at some point in the future.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bikes Can Save Us Infographic

I love infographics; here's a cool one:

Biking And Health
Created by:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hiking Trails Around Chatham

People really liked the recent Mountain Biking Trails around Pittsboro post and one reader, Sean, sent in a link to a similar project he's put together with Hiking Trails. His series of posts gives you the lowdown on tons of hikes in our area, with GPS tracks over great maps, detailed trail condition descriptions and photos of sights along the way. Due to the length of his archived posts, rather than reposting here, I'll just provide a link to 2sparrows.

I highly recommend checking out this great resource, especially before heading out into unknown territory. The posts provide real information that you'll need before you go, like the following: "Lots of bushwhacking, a few cliff climbs, bouldering. In fact I’d guess that less than 35% of this is on a real trail. And once you pass the power line north of 64, there is NO trail."

His blog has other great content as well, including book reviews and information about hiking destinations around the state.

Sean is also a big fan of toe shoes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Puppet Shows!

It's puppet show season. 

First, Pittsboro Toys will be hosting Tanglewood Puppets for a free, all ages puppet show this Saturday August 11, 2012  at 10:30 a.m.. This local puppeteer handcrafts all of his puppets, as well as his stories. Call (919) 542-4885 for more info.  

Next, the incredible Paperhand Puppet Intervention will host it's annual series in Forrest Theater in Chapel Hill starting this Friday, August 10 and continuing every weekend thru September 9. These are always wonderful shows, sure to leave a lasting impression. This year the show is entitled "City of Frogs." More info at  

Finally, if you can't get out to see a show, or even if you can, I'd highly recommend watching Being Elmo, a Puppeteer's Journey.  It's available on Netflix, iTunes, etc.  

From the film's website: "Beloved by children of all ages around the world, Elmo is an international icon. Few people know his creator, Kevin Clash, who dreamed of working with his idol, master puppeteer Jim Henson. Displaying his creativity and talent at a young age, Kevin ultimately found a home on Sesame Street. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, this documentary includes rare archival footage, interviews with Frank Oz, Rosie O’Donnell, Cheryl Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney and others and offers a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Workshop."  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mountain Biking Trails Around Pittsboro

Julie Roland writes the kind of posts that I should be writing more of.  She highlights the fun things to do in this area including the many wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities on offer. So, with permission, I'm reposting her great article on her favorite Mountain Biking spots around the Pittsboro area.  Be sure to visit her excellent blog
Enough prelude. . . her post follows:

Pittsboro, NC – I love being outdoors and recently spent a wonderful weekend mountain biking around Chatham County. Here are some of my favorite trails for a great off-road experience, all just a few miles from my home in Pittsboro, NC.

Briar Chapel

Recently I went mountain biking in Briar Chapel and it was fabulous. Briar Chapel is a 1,589 acre mixed-use development and is the Triangle’s largest green community.
Mountain bike enthusiasts will get their fix on this competitive mountain bike trail. This 15 mile biking trail has been developed in partnership with The Triangle Off-road Cyclists. It winds around around the community, and is a sustainable 18-inch wide single-track mountain bike trail.
The off-road mountain bike trails opened in 2008 and since then TORC has regularly held trail building and riding events in the community.
I’ve only been out here a few times. The mountain bike trails can be quite technical for some non-experienced riders.  They are tight and twisty, with lots of rocks and roots.  The trail itself, when you are on it is not difficult to follow.  You can park in the neighborhood itself where there is a marquee.

The Trails At Harris Lake

Harris Lake has a mountain biking trail for beginners, an intermediate trail and a favorite of mine is their advanced trail. Each Trail has a great view of the lake!
A stacked loop system, the trails offer more obstacles and longer trails the further away from the parking lot you get. All technical trail features have bypass trails. Trails are clearly marked and arrows indicate the fastest way to the parking lot from the advanced trails.
Harris Lake is one of the best places for beginner mountain bikers to increase their skill level. Marked by a blue trailhead, the beginners loop is .7 miles long and is one of the smoothest trails in the Triangle.
The more advanced riders will enjoy the yellow and red loops. They are designed to keep heart rates up. The yellow loop is narrow and has more changes in elevation, long jumps and is 2 miles in length.
The Red Loop offers the longest ride at 5 miles. This trail is made up of a series of loops that are more challenging for skilled riders.

Lake Crabtree – Cary

Lake Crabtree sported the first mountain bike trails in the Triangle. It very popular because of it’s proximity to RTP and great for beginner riders. This trail can get a bit crowded.
Highland Trail consists of a series of loops marked in yellow, with connectors marked by red blazes.  These trail loops, designed for the beginning to intermediate bike rider, are used by mountain bikers, joggers and walkers, each of whom shares responsibility for the safety of the other.
In addition to accessing the Highland Trail from it’s trailhead within the park, this trail can also be reached from the Town of Cary’s Black Creek Greenway or Willliam B. Umstead State Park by using the section of the Lake Trail near Interstate-40.
Ride on friends!
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