Nanny park: Toddler-friendly, wallet-whomping McGuffey reopens


Critics of the McGuffey Park project wondered what was wrong with the old park, seen here in 2006, and questioned the $700,000 expenditure.FILE PHOTO BY HAWES SPENCER

On Saturday, November 10, the new McGuffey Park was opened to the public. After a whopping $700,000 facelift financed by a mix of private funds and $400,000 from the city, the new park, adorned with modernist play equipment like the Spica and the Edge, welcomed "swarms" of visitors, according to a story in the Daily Progress. 


However, on a visit to the park shortly after noon that day, we noticed at most a dozen adults and children. In addition, we had to make a sudden stop turning right onto Second street from High street to avoid some kids crossing the street with balloons, which made us wonder anew about the wisdom of putting the main entrance to the park right on the busy corner. Still, the following Monday, a little after 4pm, there were at least 26 children, mostly toddlers, swarming over the new play area. (Downtown houses of worship make daily pilgrimages with their day-care charges.)

The park also includes a lonely looking round basketball court, and– despite early objections from one city planner, who believed it was inappropriate for a public park– a mosaic-tiled donor wall.

The makeover was undertaken in part because the founders (and fundraisers) of a group known as the Friends of McGuffey Park characterized the old site as dangerous and crime-ridden. In an article in the June 18, 2007 Daily Progress, the McGuffey Friends cited "illegal activity" going on there at night and described finding "needles and condoms," despite police reports that show far less crime than at nearby Lee Park and only a handful of incidents since 2004.

In recent press accounts, the McGuffey Friends said in a November 11 DP article, there were "vagrants sleeping in the park during the day" and that it was "not a place many liked to take their children." Ironically, the lovely new wooden benches in the park, two at least 30 feet long, seem to be ideal spots to sleep off a bender. 

Recently, Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi appeared on the NBC Nightly News to discuss the trend toward making playgrounds safer. Harsanyi is the author of a recent book, Nanny State, which examines our national obsession with safety. Standing beside a spica exactly like the ones installed at McGuffey Park– equipment he said makes playgrounds look more like "post-modern sculpture gardens... and not something a kid would enjoy"– he explained that our "hyper-risk averse" culture was taking the fun out of playgrounds.

"Here, there is no risk," Harsanyi said of the new playground. "Everything is soft and fake."

He pointed out that many parks have banned swing sets because they're considered too dangerous. And as Harsanyi notes, some playgrounds even have rules that prohibit running. Thankfully, McGuffey is not one of those.

The headline of the reopening story in the Daily Progress, November 11, called the park "now more family friendly." However, for seven years, a Hook reporter lived on Altamont Street and took his children to McGuffey Park almost daily.

Once, one of those children carved his name in one the old trees, thinking it would be there for years to come. But alas, that was one of the scores of trees felled for the renovation.

Not once did the reporter or his children ever feel threatened in the park, nor did they witness any accident worse than a scraped knee or a bumped head. In fact, the children loved going there, loved the odd nooks and crannies in the old park, as did other families and children in the area, and the most popular piece of playground equipment was the old metal merry-go-round, with its magical aura of risk and menace, on which children shouted to be spun faster and faster.

The new toddler-friendly McGuffey Park


Despite early objections that it was inappropriate for a public park, the new McGuffey includes a mosaic donor wall.


No three-point corner shots at McGuffey's round b-ball court.


McGuffey's waterwall. "What does it do?" asked one child.


Two wooden benches at the park are at least 30-feet long!



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1 comment

The snooty little round basketball court is to keep the black kids (and adults) away. Or at least more than two or three of them at a time.