Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Playground Review: Campbell Park

Campbell Park
On Campbell Avenue at Gilman Avenue, Downtown Campbell area
We visited this playground on a Monday evening in the summer. Though we'd been to/through Campbell Park a hundred times while running on the Los Gatos Creek Trail, we'd never before tried the playground. Here's my review:
  • Great location, between downtown Campbell and the Pruneyard. Lots of shops (read: Starbucks, Orchard City Coffee, frozen custard and cupcakes) within walking distance.
  • Toddler play area is fully fenced in, with a small grassy area inside the fenced-in enclosure for snack time and relaxation (you probably don't want to sit on the grass in the main park area because of all the canine visitors). 
  • Cool sand table features (various levels, funnels and spouts), teeter-totter and two big plastic bucket swings on the toddler side, with slide built into the hill.
  • Water feature.
  • LG Creek trail runs right alongside -- great for a walk or run.
  • No play structure on the toddler side. Area that does have a play structure is unfenced, and is right next to a fast-moving merry-go-round/carousel and the well-populated park path. The structure is wooden and not as feature-filled/modern as structures at other playgrounds we have visited (see picture).

  • Toddler area play surface is tanbark and sand mixed -- a really bad combination.
  • The raised edge/lip between the swings and the sand area, intended to keep the sand isolated, is a legitimate danger -- I saw three kids (mine included) slip and fall hard on the sandy inclined surface. See pictures below.
  • The layout of the toddler area is also problematic. I saw two different toddlers almost have very painful run-ins with the plastic bucket swings, averted at the last moment by quick-thinking dads. The fenced-in area may just be too small to accommodate these large, hard swings. 
  • A very mixed bag of people hang out at the park, with some sketchy characters.
  • Parking can be tricky at popular trail times.
Conclusion: I was very underwhelmed by this playground. The equipment was both antiquated and ho-hum, the ground covering on the toddler side was unpleasant, and the raised lip between the swing area and the sand was just unsafe. I have not yet been when the water feature was operational, but it didn't look all that impressive either (just one arch). We may stop by this playground when starting/finishing a walk on the trail, but I would never plan a trip just to visit this spot. There are plenty of nicer playgrounds within a 5-10 minute drive (for example, Frank Bramhall Park on Willow Street is probably about 2 miles away, and a hundred times better).
Best for: A toddler who needs to get some energy out before/after shopping or dining at the Pruneyard or in downtown Campbell, or needs some time out of the stroller after a walk or run on the trail.
Worst for: Parents who worry. The toddler area, which would seem to offer a worry-free experience with its full fence and lack of a play structure, is actually somewhat dangerous. In my 45 minutes there, I saw three children slip and fall on the sandy/slippery raised lip between the swing area and the sand, and I saw two children come very close to colliding with the large plastic -- and very hard -- bucket swings. Add to that the sketchy guy sitting on the bench across the way, just watching the play area, and the wafting smells of pot smoke, and a worrying toddler follower will have lots of fodder for a complete freak out.
Know if you go: Bring sand toys, as well as a change of clothes/towel if you go during water feature hours (more on that below). There is limited parking in the lot (accessible via Gilman Avenue), and street parking on Gilman can get full as well, leading to frustrating drives around the block. This is especially true at prime trail times -- evenings after work and weekend mornings. And for goodness sake, keep an eye out for that sandy raised lip in the toddler area -- it's a menace!
Water feature hours: The City of Campbell's website says that the water feature is operational 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. everyday, April through October. However, a sign next to the feature itself says that, to conserve water, the feature is closed on Mondays, open Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. I'd be interested in hearing from those who visit frequently which set of hours is actually in effect.

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