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Indian Road Playground Reopens to Big Crowds in Inwood

By Carla Zanoni | November 15, 2010 12:09pm

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

INWOOD — After more than one year of construction, Indian Road Playground reopened Sunday to excited parents and children who celebrated by playing all day in the kids’ recreation area at the northern end of Inwood Hill Park.

The noise of children swinging on swings, sliding down slides and sorting sand into an enormous sandbox filled the park throughout the day, with families heralding the delayed opening of the completely overhauled playground.

"It’s a big improvement," said 17-year Inwood resident and father Sean Hutchinson, 42. "I was surprised it took this long, but I’m just so happy it’s open."

Karin Dando-Haenish, a member Friends of Indian Road Playground, a volunteer group of parents who live in the neighborhood and collaborate with the Parks Department to care for the playground, said she and her family were thrilled to see it reopen.

"The core group of FIRP families involved in the design process really felt that their voices (reflecting the concerns of the community) were heard by the designers," she said.

Most parents said they were pleased with the new playground design, but some expressed concern about three design features: a sprinkler area ringed by large boulders, a webbed climbing wall and a slide that lacked protective railings.

A sign on the fence showed children how to use the slide, which struck some parents as disconcerting.

"If you have to show kids how to go down a slide, maybe that game isn’t good for them," said Kingsbridge resident Marvin Wheeler, 36, whose six-year-old son Tyler was too frightened to try it out.

Jennifer Hoppa, administrator for Northern Manhattan Parks, said the play equipment selected for the park "meets or exceeds safety standards" and was planned by playground experts "with input from the community and elected officials over many months."

"We have a photo and a diagram showing caregivers and kids how to use the new plastic sliding toy, since it is a new type of equipment for the community," she said. "Parents and caregivers should always supervise their kids' use of play equipment, since they are most familiar with their abilities and know what they are comfortable with their children doing."

Judging by the number of children running and laughing throughout the space, most kids weren't bothered by such complaints and seemed to like the new design.

"It’s beautiful," six-year-old Inwood resident Lesley Urgiles said as she shoveled sand in a more than six-foot-long canoe near the large circular sandbox.

The canoe was part of a Native American theme intended for the playground, whose name reflects the history of the parkland where "traces of an Indian settlement were found" in 1911, according to the Parks Department.

The playground was originally designed to hold an "artifact dig" component in the sandbox as recently as early November, but Native American representatives said the feature was offensive and insensitive, according to Northattan, a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism blog.

Subsequently, a "clay pot, various arrow heads, and stone tools" were removed after an agreement was reached between Native American representatives and Parks, reported the blog.

The feature did not appear to be missed on Sunday as parents and children filled each area of the playground playing, laughing and talking until sunset.

"I didn’t even know it was reopening until I heard kids playing outside," said David Abbott, 44, who lives across the street from the playground and has twin six-year-old children. "I’ve missed seeing my friends from the neighborhood, now I’ll have my social life back."