Pow!-erful Fun

June 1, 2014, Department, by Samantha Bartram

A comic-themed playground in Maryland invites children to use their imaginations and get creative during  playtime.Playgrounds should be exciting spaces where children engage in active, imaginative play. Brenda Iraola, landscape architecture supervisor at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Prince Georges County, recently took that truism to a whole new level with her comic-themed playground at Heurich Park in Hyattsville. Iraola’s purchase of a surplus of blue, red and yellow steel playground equipment, coupled with the then-recent release of the latest Superman film, “Man of Steel,” sparked an idea. “I thought, this is going to be my comic hero playground,” she says. 

Building off the already-established color palette and thinking back to the comic heroes of old, Iraola thought she could bring the theme home through creative use of the playground’s rubber safety surfacing. “Most people think of surfacing as the last piece of the design…. In this case, the play surface enhanced the steel equipment and the theme — it has allusions to Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Captain America, all those great heroes,” Iraola says. She also directed contractors to use the brightly colored surfacing material to create big comic action word balloons in the style of the old Adam West-era “Batman” television show, containing fun words like “plop, splat, wow, zoom and zap,” Iraola says. “I become a kid again every time I see that playground. It’s awesome for kids to be playing there during the summer.” 

Heurich Park is one of about 20 themed playgrounds Iraola and her staff have created, each designed to cater to a child’s curious, creative side. “As landscape architects, we have to do something different — something exciting to pull kids out of house and into our parks,” Iraola explains. “We have to compete with electronics, movies…the gratification of staying in our own homes. With this playground, I wanted to pull kids out of the house and get them outside for physical fitness. And at a comic-themed playground, what could be more fun than that?”

Samantha Bartram is the Associate Editor of Parks & Recreation Magazine.