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'Adventure Playground,' Modeled After a Junkyard, Heads to Governors Island

Adventure Playground on Governors Island
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GOVERNORS ISLAND — At this playground, whether it be old tires, planks of wood or puddles of mud, nothing is meant to be hands-off — aside from the parents.

Adventure Playground, an open space modeled after a junkyard of sorts, is setting up 5,000 square feet of outdoor, freewheeling fun on Governors Island this summer.

The idea is to give kids an area to create a world of their own imagination, organizers said. They can literally build their own playground using tools and raw materials, figure out how to work together and then tear it all down and start again.

"It's so rare for kids in New York City to have the independence and freedom to create and play in this unstructured way," said Jacklyn Katz, a member of play:ground, the nonprofit behind the Adventure Playground. "No matter how well-built a normal playground is — you can't draw or paint or nail something onto a playground — if it doesn't keep changing, kids will get bored."

Three trained "playworkers" are on hand to assist kids, if they ask for help — and to loosely keep watch on the children. Parents, however, are strongly encouraged to not even step inside the playground area.

The nonprofit, which launched last year with the goal of creating a permanent home for the Adventure Playground, has run a few of its unstructured playgrounds as pop-ups — and the only issue organizers encountered was parents refusing to sit back.

"We literally had to put up signs at Brooklyn Museum pop-up we ran to keep parents from getting involved," Katz said. "It's a tough concept for some parents to really give in to, allowing their kids to just play on their own, even with nails and hammers."

Katz said their playground — which is currently raising funding through a Kickstarter campaign — will be the only of its kind in New York City, but the "adventure" concept is quite common in Europe.

"In places like Germany, their adventure playgrounds have fire pits, archery, it's incredible," Katz said. "The kids take what looks like junk and make these unbelievable play areas."

The playground, which as of Friday already had $14,263 of its $25,000 goal with 19 days to go, is also happy to take donated items. Katz said items like plungers and even crutches have been dropped off and used rather imaginatively by children.

The plan for the Governors Island playground this summer includes a day camp for kids from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. They'll also have open hours for all children on weekdays and weekends.

"Whether it's cardboard boxes and string, or paint and wood, it's so amazing to see what kids come up with on their own," Katz said. "Free play is something lacking in the city, and we're happy to bring that to a place like Governors Island."