Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Deming Park

I'm not really much of an expert on Parks and Recreations departments, so I can't really tell if ours is just fine or way above average.  I can say that the town I lived in before Terre Haute had almost nothing for Parks and Recreation, and we greatly missed it.  When we can to Terre Haute and lived again in a place with a functional, competent (maybe even outstanding) Parks and Rec department it was a great relief.  In addition to being overall functional and competent, there are some real gems among the Terre Haute parks.  Today I want to talk a little bit about Deming Park.

Now Deming Park isn't really very close to our home, but we go there a fair bit anyway, and for many different reasons.  Sometimes we go for the shelterhouses, of which there are many, and in good repair.  Sometimes we go for the Disc-golf.  Deming Park has a great 18-hole disc golf course, and Terre Haute has a far community of disc-golfers.  I was never particularly into disc-golf before moving to Terre Haute and a few years ago I entered the novice division of a tournament as a total lark, but enjoyed it.  I've actually found out since that several other of my friends play occasionally and have gotten to play with my wife, my kids, and sometimes my buddies.  I find disc-golf to be more relaxed, and vastly less expensive than ball-golf, I suppose that also makes it lower class.  I can't hold a candle to the folk that are serious about it, but I'll take a canvas bag, a few discs, a water bottle, and have a great afternoon.  If the kids get kinda fried while "playing" along with us, maybe we'll only do 9 holes.  The course is set up so that most baskets can be moved to a couple different locations, so the course even changes a little periodically.  Deming has tennis, a pool, and a little duck pond, but we've never messed with those.

Our family has had good luck with special events at Deming Park too.  In the winter, they do a Christmas Decoration event, that we always go to.  A dozen or so local community organizations, each decorate one shelter house.  One of the things I always enjoy about this is the real sense of involvement from many segments of the community.  We've seen a two theatre presentations, that I can remember at the stage at Deming, both free, both excellent.  Deming park has a Holly Arboretum 

But the real center piece of Deming Park, for our family, is the Oakley Playground. 

Our friends the, Martlands, told us that when they first got to Terre Haute they found Deming Park to be disappointing, and all torn up, only to discover that in fact it was finishing up an major upgrade, and a few months later a brand-new awesome playground opened up.  And Oakley playground is awesome.  It is big, open, well designed.  Many children can play at once, and indeed it's busy pretty much all summer.  Our previous town had only one real park and it was dominated by a single large, but very poorly designed playground.  The kids sorta liked it, but it was a constant frustration for all parents, because it was so hard to keep track of where your kids were in it.  Oakley has lots of things to do, but it also has clean lines of sight, and two main areas one designed for slightly older kids one for slightly younger ones.  Oakley playground also has a real sense of public sculpture.  The main arch is really pretty much a sculpture itself.  There is a small bronze of a child playing.  At the moment there is one of the enamel horses from the temporary sculpture project a few years ago, too.

Upon a little research, Oakley Playground turns out to be even cooler than I realized.  It won the 2005 INASLA Merit Award for Constructed Projects.  What does that mean, (uhm, looking a few things up on Google, yes, ah here it is).  INASLA is the INdiana chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the professional organization for landscape architects.  (Oh it got an IPRA award in 2004 too, that's uhm .. International Public Relations Association, no wait, uhm more likely Indiana Parks and Recreation Association)  One of the main reasons for the upgrade to the new playground, and one of the reasons Oakley won, is because of a desire to make a place where severely physically handicapped children could "interact with other children in a barrier-free play environment."  And there are a lot of design elements making this playground particularly accessible.  It uses poured-in-place resilient rubber surfacing rather than dirt, gravel or mulch, making the whole area wheelchair accessible, but still fairly safe to fall on.  It has 2 circular swings, which are usable by the physically handicapped kids, but also very popular with non-handicapped kids.  (Alex gave up waiting in line for one last time we were there...).

Another cool thing right near the playground is the "Spirit of Terre Haute" a little miniature kiddie train.  It only runs during the high season, and it costs a buck for a ride, but both of our kids enjoy the heck out of it.  Given the theme of this blog, I'm love a good picture of the Spirit of Terre Haute, if anyone has one to share.

So for many reasons, from community decorations, to a place that "paves the way for all to play," to a great free golf course, (well disc golf), to a kiddy ride giving physical embodiment to the Spirit of Terre Haute, Deming Park is ...

Just one more reason I'm proud of Terre Haute


  1. We moved here 10 years ago from Silicon Valley where every park was well built with modern playground equipment.

    We LOVED the old Deming Park with it's interesting and varied wooden structures.

    The new park is nice, but it's like every other modern playground out there.

    My kids are grown now, but if you were to ask them which is better, they'd vote for the old playground equipment. We were quite sad to see it pulled out.

    That said, Deming Park is a gem. And you didn't mention all the labeled trees that are scattered around the park, or feeding the Canada Geese down by the entrance, or sledding, or the number of teens that insist on getting their prom pictures taken there.

  2. The author has a number of silly grudges against geese and will say nothing nice about the filthy vagabonds. I forgot about the labeled trees in Deming, you're right that's cool. And SLEDDING, WOW I'll bet Deming would be a great place to go sledding, I'd never thought of that.

    As for playgrounds, I never saw the old playground there so I can't comment. You can make a bad or a mediocre playground even with modern playground equipment, I've seen it done. And the Oakley is more than just the equipment. It has at least 3 pieces of well integrated sculpture. It uses gentle hills and trees well to screen. It has a wildflower section. The paths wind, and allow many different sight-lines. I've seen playgrounds that are just big rectangular spaces full of equipment. Or where the equipment is just sorta jumbled together. Maybe places like Oakley are common in Silicon valley, but it's easily the best modernist playground I've ever been to, although I certainly have seen some great wood and tire swing style playgrounds too. My own memories are largely of playgrounds in a style from the late 70s that was crappier than either the older wooden stuff or the more recent stuff.

  3. You haven't taken your kids sledding there? It is the about the best spot in the area. The only problem is that EVERYONE swamps it, so you have to get there ASAP when it snows.


  4. I suggest not going to "Snow Hill" (the first big hill when you enter the park) when it snows. Go to one of the other hills that are less used (like the hill near the corner of the park by Fruitridge and Poplar), it definitely worth it.
    Andrea H.