Megali - adjective, noun - adjective 1. great or big in Greek -noun 1.. A nickname derived from my first and middle names

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Playground Series Launch: Garrett Park, Shawnee, KS

Welcome to the launch of my Playground Series!  I can thank Parenting.  Illustrated with Crappy Pictures. for the light bulb over my head switching on.  If you don't read Amber Dusick's blog, you have to start.  Now.  Her sense of humor and stick figure drawings bring the "did that really happen?" moments of parenting to life. 

Back in November 2011, she wrote a post about taking her kids to the park.  Unlike Amber, I don't hate parks but I find solidarity when she says, "I'm still searching for the perfect one. I can pretty much always point out all the things wrong with a park. I have a whole mental checklist of safety, fun, visibility, ratio of nice to mean kids, unattentive parents or nannies and cleanliness. I'm like an undercover park inspector. I guess this means I'm a little, tiny bit critical of parks."    And I'm figuratively nodding my head and internally shouting, "I know, right!?" as she questions the thought process of park designers and labels the playground with such kid-unfriendly features as the "idiot wall" and the "cliff of death."

In the comments, I discovered a blog, Play St. Louis, that seeks to visit and review as many parks in her area so that fellow parents know where to take the kids to play.  I read several of her spotlighted parks and playgrounds and decided that I wanted to do the same thing for my area.  Months later, now I am.

I think parks are an asset and an essential part of a thriving town or city.  Several essays provide information on how parks can revitalize and engage communities, foster economic development, create safer neighborhoods, help children learn, improve public health, and promote tourism, amongst other potential benefits.  In a transcribed interview about why parks are important, many answers are given, but they all come back to a primary theme: kids need to play and explore nature - parks facilitate both.

I am fortunate to live in the Kansas City area, in Johnson County, KS.  We have lived many places and I seldom have found such a dedication to outdoor spaces, be they an expansive trail system, parks geared towards a wide age range with multiple uses, and an abundance of playgrounds.  As an example of this, please check out the parks information on Overland Park's website.  "Overland Park has 83 parks and open spaces and four small lakes where visitors can run, walk, bike/hike, play and fish."

Photo Credit:

Yesterday, April 9, the boys and I enjoyed a picnic and some playtime with friends at Garrett Park in Shawnee, KS.   

Park elements include:
  • A multi-use recreational trail, with footbridges and trailheads, that meanders along a natural creek bank.
  • Shelters and a small play structure is located on the east end of the park.
  • A multi-purpose practice field is located along the south side of 47th Street. This field provides a green space buffer between the street and the Garrett House. A softball practice field is also provided.
  • A restroom facility is located at the central portion of the park to provide good access to all activities within the park.
  • Two parking lots are provided in the park.

The building on the left is the historic Garrett House

Garrett House, Shelter, Play Structure

As you walk into the park from the 47th & Aminda entrance, there is sufficient green and trail space separating impulsive littles from running into the parking lot.  Some teenagers or young adults were playing frisbee in the multi-purpose practice field, which was a perfect buffer, as stated above, between the park and the road. 
The shelter, as seen facing the parking lot

There were other people occupying the picnic shelter when we arrived, but it didn't feel crowded thanks to multiple large tables.  One of my friend's daughters found it a bit chilly in the shade, but that would be needed on a Summer's day.

Perhaps agreeing that the shaded shelter wasn't just right, some people decided to lay out a blanket and soak up the sunshine instead.

We didn't check out the entire park, but Slim and Curly and their friends really loved what and where they did play.

Curly has a shaved head, so not so curly.  He's in red.
The playground equipment had different climbing, sliding, balancing, and hanging components and entertained the two-six year olds in our party.  With all the mentioned bits, plus a zip line, I'm glad there's a soft landing surface.

Slim and Curly follow their friend up the stone stairs, past the bathroom and to a "secret hideout"

There were two baby swings and two regular swings.  The swingset portion has wood chip mulch.

A cursory Google search doesn't reveal why the Garrett House is historic, but the stone facade is rather pretty.

Slim and Curly demonstrating "The Purloined Letter" method of hiding as they hang out in their friend's secret hideout.

Their sweet friend cheering on Curly as he climbs his first tree.

The secret hideout opens at one point and what you see is a perfect introductory climbing tree.

The kids found a lizard in the brush by the creek bed.
There are short a few short dirt paths off of the paved path that lead to the creek.  We didn't explore them because there were some concerns about "leaves of three" and wanting to encourage our children to "let it be."

Not one of we six had need of the bathroom, but it is a well-placed facility. 

Overall, the park is boffo (sorry, we watched Muppets Take Manhattan recently and Kermit exclaiming, "Boffo Lenny!  Socko Lenny!" is stuck in my head.  And now yours too.  Maniacal laugh.  That's more Muppets.  From The Muppets.) 

Do you live in Johnson County or the Kansas City area?  What parks and free play places should be on our list to review before we move?


  1. You should check out Black Hoof Park in Lenexa. It's a gem! Our favorite overall!

  2. "SAMUEL GARRETT, farmer, Section 3, P. O. Wilder, was born in Devonshire, England, March 24, 1831. There he learned the trade of stone cutter and followed that occupation for a livelihood. In the spring of 1849 he immigrated to Anderson County, Texas, but being deceived in the purchase of some lands he remained only a few months, and on the 20th of July, 1849, he came to Johnson County, Kansas; resided a year with the Shawnee Indians. In 1850 he moved to Council Grove, this State, and for three years traded with the Kaw Indians. In the early part of 1854 he returned to Johnson County, and located on his present farm. On November 10, 1853, he was married to Betsey Captain, a member of the Shawnee tribe, and continued to reside here with that nation until about 1870, when they moved to the Indian Territory. Mr. Garrett accompanied them, and resided there some six years. He owns there 1,100 acres of land. In December, 1876, he returned to his residence in this county, and devotes himself to the management of his farms. He has here some 900 acres besides large quantities of live stock. Mr. Garrett's first wife died, leaving him with a family of six children, and he was married again in the Indian Territory, about 1874, to Miss Sidnie Smith."Cutler, William G. "History of the State of Kansas", 1883,