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Go Ask Mom

Missing Laurel Hills' wooden castle playground? Check Apex's Kelly Road Park

Posted October 26

Playground review: Kelly Road Park

Sassafras All Children's Playground is opening in just about a week at Laurel Hills Park in north Raleigh.

This is a massive playground - the city's largest. What's more, the playground is designed for kids of all abilities. So children in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues, who can't normally navigate across mulch or traditional playground pieces, can have just as much fun as other children.

While lots of parents are very excited about all of these developments (judging from the reaction to the Facebook and Go Ask Mom posts I've been writing about this), others are mourning the loss of the original All Children's Playground at Laurel Hills.

That playground, built in the 1990s and demolished last fall, was like no other in Raleigh. The large, castle-like wooden structure had all sorts of corridors and hiding places. Kids and parents loved it. My older daughter, especially, spent a lot of time scampering across the big tires and through the narrow hallways. I miss it too!

That playground, however, had been damaged by fire several years ago. It also didn't meet safety codes. And it wasn't living up to its original intent - which was to be a place, like Sassafras, where kids of all abilities can play. Over the past couple of decades, research on playgrounds and disabilities have allowed park designers to build better playgrounds.

Sassafras will include pieces such as a wheelchair accessible teeter totter and a zip line with a harness-like seat for children who need upper body support. It will make a big difference in the lives of a lot of children who, until now, had few public places to play. A grand opening celebration is scheduled at the park on Edwards Mill Road on Nov. 5.

But, never fear. If you are among those missing the old castle-like structure, there's another in Wake County that's a lot like the old playground.

Kelly Road Park in Apex, built in 1999, was actually designed by the same company that built the original All Children's playground.

Like All Children's, Kelly Road is a wooden, castle-like structure with lots of corridors and staircases to explore. I wrote about the park six years ago.

It's been a year since I've visited the park, but Angela Reincke, Apex parks planner, tells me there have been no major structural changes to the playground in the last year - just routine maintenance.

In fact, this fall, the company that designed the playground will come out to assess its condition and help the town figure out how to continue to maintain the structure so kids across Apex and the region have a wooden castle-like structure to play in.

The park is at 1609 Kelly Rd. in Apex not far from Olive Chapel Elementary School.

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