The Sights and Delights of Cascades Park
By Ashley Hopkins
Cascades Park has added something to this city that is rather hard to convey with words. But when you’re out there, you can see and feel it. Kids of all ages running around, laughing and squealing with delight; a passing stranger flashing you a warm smile as they walk their dog; families and individuals on blankets dotting the grassy hill enjoying a picnic or a good book. These are the priceless things that truly enrich a community. According to to the American Planning Association: city parks are the quickest and most effective way to build a sense of community and improve life while bringing diverse groups of citizens together to connect and interact, working towards a shared goal. It’s safe to say that Tallahassee’s new city parks darling hits every one of these points out of the ball park!
Of all of Cascade’s features - the amphitheatre (I can’t be the only one daydreaming of attending outdoor symphonic performances), the water fountains, the interactive fountain, the playscape - one thing stands out among them all: this park is gorgeous. For being in such an urban setting, I was stunned. That were vast expanses of grassy patches that just made my picnic-loving heart flutter. Vibrantly colored flowers dotted the sidewalks and Japanese magnolia saplings promised years of stunning foliage displays. For a park with the greater purpose of storm water management, Cascades is a beautiful reflection on what can result when individuals make a true effort in merging form and function.
While the beauty of it all appealed to my tastes the most, my spunky little 6 year old fell in love with another feature that contributes to this park’s beauty: Discovery, the 7,000 sq. ft. nature based playscape. There is a water pump that feeds into a bed of native plants, staggered logs that lead up to a slide built into a hillside, large climbing logs and rocks set in sand pits. Not a monkey bar or see saw are to be seen but the throngs of children that flooded the park on Friday's opening were running around with glee. The Natural Playgrounds Company conducted a survey in which 600 children, grades 1-4, were asked what they liked to do outside. Climbing rocks, rolling down hills, playing in the water. Of the hundreds of responses, only a handful involved structured playground equipment. The majority of the children's responses reflected one thing: get them outside, into nature, and they will have fun. Discovery is a true testament to how most kids don’t need fancy shmancy playground equipment for their imaginations to run wild. Aesthetically, I also feel like the playscape is exponentially more pleasing to the eye in the overall Cascades Park setting. No harshly colored metal and plastic structures dot the landscape so the “playground” organically blends into the park. It’s lovely.
Another fabulous feature that will draw me back are the paved sidewalks that loop around and through the park. The larger loop that encompasses the park measures at 1 mile, enough distance to get a good sweat going! There are shorter distances as well that can be seen, with distances measured, on this park map. I can’t wait to lace up amy running shoes nd give these paths a go!
One thing that I did see that I wasn’t fond of while at the park opening was some children getting a little destructive. Specifically, I spotted about a half a dozen kids throwing huge landscape rocks into the base of the Cascades Fountain. While it is important to let children explore natural materials and play with them in appropriate ways, it is also important to emphasize that we as community citizens, young and old, have a responsibility to care for our parks. I gently approached the group of children and before I could say something another adult chimed in with “Hey, guys! Let’s not throw those rocks. People worked really hard to build this park and we want to keep it nice.” Stole the words right out of my mouth! Thanks, stranger. What a great reminder that we as citizens have a responsibility to ourselves and our community to make sure we are doing what we can to keep Cascades beautiful.