Wild West Playground

Wild West Playground is located near the West 93rd Street entrance to the Park. While several large trees around the playground and along the interior perimeter shade the edges of the playground, the center remains very sunny. Families and school groups often use the small, open lawn area adjacent to the playground for picnics, social play, and active recreation.

The playground was originally built between 1935 and 1936 as part of the perimeter playground system. Some sculptural play equipment was added in the late 1960s, and in 1988, the Conservancy completely reconstructed the playground in a Western theme designed by architect Richard Dattner. The playground is typically used by children between the ages of two and nine. It comprises four play areas, each enclosed by a low timber wall and containing mostly wooden play equipment. Three play areas are surfaced with sand, and one has rubber safety surfacing. The playground includes a standard water-spray feature that drains into a channel bisecting the space, emulating a small river and extending the opportunity for water play through the playground. The channel leads to a stepped circular area featuring additional water jets and surrounded by small concrete seats from which caregivers and children can watch the water-play activity. Separate from the central play space is a swing area with bucket and strap swings. 

Wild West Playground provides a range of opportunities for imaginative physical play. Children play on and around the low timber walls, balance and climb on the various TimberForm play structures (which also incorporate the tire swings and slide), and manipulate the water flowing in the channel through the play area. The configuration of the playground invites exploration, imaginative play, and games like hide and seek. At the corner of each play area is a small elevated structure with a roof and an opening on each side, providing both a place to hide and a perch from which to gain a birds-eye view. The water features are popular and encourage diverse forms of play. Children enjoy running along the water channel and playing with the water jets in the circular seating area.

Design Goals and Opportunities

The reconstruction of Wild West Playground will embrace the successful qualities of the existing design. The most salient characteristics of the playground are its organization of space and integration of water as a design element. While these features are character-defining, in their current configuration they also create barriers to universal accessibility that need to be addressed. In addition, the materials with which the playground is constructed require reevaluation, as current safety standards preclude the use of pressure-treated lumber, the primary material used throughout the playground.