The plan was simple – a day of playing in every park and playground in Hutchinson on a Sunday afternoon.
My husband and I are the parents of three girls – the oldest being our 6-year-old twin girls, Brett and Kaci. The twins often are lumped together in much of their activities, whether it is softball or school. However, several months ago while talking during our morning devotions, my husband and I decided we needed to have play dates with our twins individually – one-on-one bonding time with each one of us without the other twin.
The girls love the time alone with us, and we’ve done many cool things so far. For instance, in February, Brett and I toured the Kansas Cosmosphere and John and Kaci went roller-skating. We’ve gone to movies, went fishing and spent time at the zoo.
But on this warm day in early May, Kaci and I mapped out our mission for our day out – a play date at every Hutchinson park. I knew by the time it was all said and done we would accomplish a daunting feat that few, I’m guessing, have ever attempted.
Hutchinson, in fact, has plenty of places for playing – more than I even realized. There are more than two dozen playgrounds and parks across the city – majority of which have some type of playground or, at least, a place to play ball.
While some might complain about our park conditions, I think these parks are fantastic – especially when you have an imaginative, sporty daughter like Kaci. I, after all, grew up in an era of straight slides, swing sets and a few monkey bars – long before the advent of playscapes like today.
I even found my inner child as we swung high, slid down the slides, played in teepees and pretended we were on a pirate boat, garnishing a few curious looks from the parents sitting on the benches.
The day started with a picnic at Lake Talbott at the Kansas State Fairgrounds, then playing at the Fairgrounds Park, which has baseball diamonds, playground and a free city sprinkler park.
Kaci’s best parks: All of them, of course, she says, recalling different fun aspects of each one we visited.
Grandview Park might have been one of her favorite. She liked climbing on the equipment and running around the spacious area. Grandview, once the site of an old elementary school, has a playscape with plenty of activities, along with a climbing tower of sorts. There is also a baseball diamond and swing sets.
She also loved Rice Park. The park has a walking and bicycling trail by the creek, along with more specialized play equipment, basketball courts, ball diamonds and swings. In addition, you can walk a little ways down the trail and more equipment and fun at a park also known as Vic Goering Park.
Carey Park has everything a child could ever want – fishing holes, a flowing river, a zoo, water park, skate park, ball diamonds, golf course, Frisbee golf and, of course, plenty of areas with play equipment. We stopped at almost every spot in the park with equipment. Kaci liked the tall metal slides, which had plenty of zip on this day. There also is a cool climbing rock near the zoo. We spent a majority of the time, however, playing in teepees and on a homemade covered wagon. This spot also had a wooden fort and a spinning top that Kaci could lay on or sit on and spin around and around.
Worst Park: Besides the ones with no equipment – George Pyle, Crescent, Centennial, Ashmeade, Harsha, Martin Johnson and Green, to name a few, Kaci didn’t care for Elmdale, which has a small play set with a space theme. It was too childish for her, she said, telling me she was sorry we even stopped.
Other parks with equipment
n Bernard White Park, 600 W. Fifth Avenue: It has a playground, picnic area and basketball. The playground was small, so we decided to move ahead to our next spot on the map.
n Farmington Park, 3009 Farmington Road: This is a park we missed – but I know Kaci would have loved. It has a playground, basketball and volleyball, along with a picnic area.
n Herman Bunte Park, 35 Circle Drive: There is a playground, and picnic area.
n Garden Grove Park, 3108 Garden Grove: We missed this park, but it has a picnic area and playground.
n Shadduck Park, by Boys and Girls Club on West Second: We didn’t stop at this park, thinking it might be trespassing onto Boys and Girls Club property, but according to the city, Shadduck is open to the public and has playground equipment, picnic area and volleyball.
Other parks in town
n Avenue A on Main: The city operates a free water park here. Follow the creek under the bridge to the grasshopper park. Kaci climbed up on the giant grasshopper so I could take a cool photo with the huge Hutchinson mural in the background.
n Dillon Nature Center, 3002 E. 30th: we didn’t make it here on this day, but it’s a park we love. The natural playscape is a great addition and there are ponds to fish, walking trails and, of course, the nature center.