Profile: Adventure Playground

Adventure Playground, Berkeley Marina

Adventure Playground is a relic of a bygone era when kids could run around playing stickball in the street and stay out ’til ma rang the dinner bell. Kids can imagine, build, and decorate their own play structures with saws, hammers, nails, and paint. They earn the right to use these tools by collecting hazards (like loose nails in the sand) and turning them in to the loan desk.  There are more permanent features like the climbing web and zip line too (for folks over six).

Adventure Playground is open from 11 to 5 on weekends. It is tucked away at the Marina end of University (veer left once you pass the freeway) with views of the water, near a public restroom and picnic tables. It is adjacent to a more typical playground with swings if your kids don’t have the lust for danger that you had hoped.

Young children are welcome as long as they are within an arm’s reach of a parent. Older preschoolers and young grade schoolers love it. Children older than age 7 can be dropped off for unsupervised play for a $10 fee.

Berkeley's Adventure Playground

As Lenore Skenazy wrote in her her Salon piece The War on Children’s Playgrounds, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Adventure Playground is a special (and fun!) place in Berkeley and in our country. In our effort to make playgrounds as safe as humanely possible, Skenazy says that we’re also eliminating the fun.

She writes:

For the past 40 years or so, we have certainly been working to make our playgrounds safer than safe — maybe even safer than fun. Seen an old merry-go-round lately? Or a swinging gate? How about a seesaw — the kind without springs, where, when your so-called friend suddenly plopped you down, you felt it?

Didn’t think so. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued reams of playground regulations and actually gone so far as to recommend against “tripping hazards, like tree stumps and rocks.” Maybe we should just bulldoze the local parks and put in a couple of blobs — this time, made of plastic.

Welp, like I said, Adventure Playground is all kinds of wrong by today’s overly-safe standards. I think Lenore Skenazy would approve.

Read the details about summer program, a group visit, and safety tips on the Adventure Playground website. Also note that groups larger than five children require reservations.

[Photo credits: Photo credit: Patrick Buechner,  Heather Flett, Wendy Copley]