June 17, 2011

Let's Play!

The Sanford/Lee County area boasts some really great parks and playgrounds. Here are our picks for the best places to kick back and relax as the kids play:

1) Kiwanis Children's Parkplace -- "The Parents' Park" (map to park vicinity; 360-degree view)

At first glance, this park (which is on the corner of Carthage Street and Park Avenue) seems a little barren. However, ask any parent in a 10-mile radius and they'll tell you this is the premiere playground for little people. And by little, we're talking preschool and younger.
Pros: Kiwanis Children's boasts a covered shelter with multiple picnic tables, a smattering of uncovered picnic tables on the other side of the park, four baby swings, four regular swings, and a fenced in play area that's designed for young children. Here's a more in-depth view of the park.

Cons: Older children may easily tire of this park. However, you can combat their boredom with a frisbee or football to toss around as the park has a large swath of grass that's perfect for running wild.

Do More: The park also offers tennis courts and a covered shelter with a grill.

2) San Lee Park -- "The Environmentalists' Park" (map)

If you're looking for a picnic spot and play area that's away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this will be right up your alley. Located off Pumping Station Road, San Lee Park offers a more secluded environment with tons of natural entertainment.
Pros: The temperature-controlled wildlife center offers vending machines and clean restrooms, as well as a room full of native wildlife. The exhibits will entertain younger children while older children will enjoy the activity sheets and facts that dot the interior walls. There's also an outdoor play area that includes a baby swing.

Bonus: San Lee Park's long-used play area was recently torn down and a brand new play area was constructed. Now there are more swings, a large slide, a climbing structure, and more. The best part is it's all in a shady area of the park located right next to picnic tables, so you can play all day! See the new and improved park here.

Cons: This park is a bit out of the way if you don't have much time to spare. There is a wading area that children flock to, but the area is slippery and can be dangerous.

Do More: Outside are waterfalls, a large pond, and all the ducks you can feed. The park also boasts a trail that that children can hike easily, and a large green that's perfect for playing. As it gets warmer, the park will rent canoes and paddle boats for dirt cheap.

3) O.T. Sloan Park -- "The Drop-In Park" (map to park vicinity; 360-degree view)

In the summertime, O.T. Sloan is known for its two public pools, but now is a wonderful time to visit the park's playground area. This short turn off of Bragg Street is perfect for an impromptu quick bite.
Pros: The park is located near several stores and restaurants, so you can easily stop for a while and then get back to your day. The picnic area is right beside a small playground that offers a slide, climbing area, and swings that will appeal to children of all ages.

Cons: The picnic and play area is very close to the park's parking lot, making it hazardous at certain times of the day -- such as when parents are picking up or dropping off their children at the Boys & Girls Club, which is also located in the park. There are no baby swings and the metal slide gets hot quickly.

Do More: The park also offers three public pools (two large, one baby), baseball fields, and an extensive disc golf course.

4) Tramway Road Park: "The Kids' Park" (map to park vicinity)

Sanford's newest playground boasts brand new, fun equipment that encourage children to get moving. It's situated between Southern Lee High and SanLee Middle schools, making it ideal for after-school stops. Make sure you park in Parks & Rec's gravel lot!
Pros: The playground's new heat-resistant equipment includes two playsets, several slides, a swing set, a spinner, two child-sized picnic tables, and a couple benches for parents. There's rubber mulching to make falls safer.

Cons: The play area offers no shade -- which can make it unbearable on super hot days. Also, there are no baby swings.

Do More: Parks & Rec has also created a walking trail for fitness buffs. You can use the Lee County Schools' open wifi for free, though many sites are blocked.

5) Honorable mention: Depot Park -- "The Urban Park" (map; 360-degree view)

The land Depot Park sits on used to be Sanford's town center and was the place our earliest residents gathered to keep updated on town news. This park is also one of our town's newest, thanks to a special effort by Downtown Sanford to bring the space into modern times.
Pros: There is a historic train and fountain for playing in, as well as lots of open space for imaginative play. The park also houses the Railroad House Museum.

Cons: The train and fountain are the only options for playing. Also, the train and bathrooms are often dirty. Several people have complained of finding the train filthy and unfit for playing in. This is an "at your own risk" park.

Do More: There are picnic tables all over the park, which is also within walking distance of several local restaurants and boutiques, the library's main branch, and the local coffee shop. Best yet, the park boasts free wi-fi!

Did we miss your favorite park? Tell us all about it in the comments section.


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