Mariners’ Playground

Mariners’ Playground is located just inside the Park entrance known as Mariners’ Gate. Set on a small plateau overlooking Central Park West on the north side of Summit Rock, and surrounded by trees, the playground feels removed from the nearby street.

While the adjacent playgrounds provide more opportunities for older children, Mariners’ playground engages younger children primarily between ages two and five. Part of the original perimeter playground system completed in 1936, it was reconstructed by the Conservancy in 1999 with post-and-platform play structures and small-scale freestanding equipment. The nautical theme of the existing features was inspired by the nearby named Park entrance. They include small composite play structures, an oversized sandbox, a wooden structure that mimics a raft, seahorse spring riders, bucket swings, and a standard water-spray feature. The safety surfacing is installed in a pattern that evokes water.

The play equipment offers a variety of opportunities for physical play well-suited to young children, including climbing, exploring, and jumping. Playground users enjoy that the playground caters to smaller children, which makes it safer and creates a sense of community, facilitating interaction among this age group. In addition to the abundant shade and character of the park environment, parents and caregivers indicate that they use this playground because of its social aspect and because it is relatively uncrowded. As a result, the playground tends to be a very social place. The open space surrounding the play equipment further encourages congregation and unstructured play. Other than the sandbox and water feature, there are limited opportunities for the sensory and manipulative play appropriate to the age group that uses the playground.

Design Goals and Opportunities

As the playground primarily serves preschoolers, its reconstruction will focus on providing a more engaging and diverse play experience for that age group, including increased opportunities for sensory and manipulative play. Because it is larger than the other playgrounds appealing to the same age group (such as Bernard, Friedman, and Tots playgrounds), it offers the opportunity to create larger or expanded play features and to incorporate water as a central design element. Other objectives include additional seating and amenities to better accommodate social activity.