January 30, 2021

Park and Playground Trends for 2021: Embracing the Natural Landscape

After evaluating data and feedback from landscape architects, leading recreation professionals, and play experts, GameTime identified five significant trends within the park and playground industry for the upcoming year. This series will explore each trend individually. 

For years, playground designers and landscape architects have faced a major obstacle when creating outdoor play environments: the natural landscape. Until recently, it was challenging to place playgrounds in areas with unusual topographies. Thanks to innovations like net-based play structures and custom-designed playgrounds, designers are no longer shying away from challenging landscapes and themes. They’re embracing them. 

Tricky Topography for Landscape Architects

Canyon Park — Washington, UT

Hilly terrains are a common hurdle that designers have to jump when creating a playground, but rope-based play structures have offered a solution to this prevalent issue. Canyon Park in Washington, UT, is an excellent example of how playground designers can adopt a hilly terrain and incorporate that into the play experience. 

Canyon Park is a marvel of landscape architecture and innovative play products - View more photos


At the top of Canyon Park, there’s an outdoor obstacle course where families can enjoy some friendly competition, and below the challenge course is a massive hill that has been converted into a unique inclined play area. Using GameTime’s VistaRope® custom capabilities, the design team project created a multi-level hillside play experience that people of all ages can enjoy. At the hill's base are giant boulders, which the designers also equipped with VistaRope technology to make them even MORE fun to climb on than they already were. Canyon Park exemplifies how rope-based play structures like those in the VistaRope collection can offer flexibility in any playground design. 

Creating Connections With Custom Playgrounds

Lendrum Park — Edmonton, AB, Canada

Sometimes connecting the local landscape to a playground goes beyond working around the terrain.  Edmonton, Alberta, is one of Canada’s largest Honey producers, so the designers of Lendrum Park in Edmonton wanted the playground to reflect the local industry. The custom design team at GameTime, Landmark Design, creates play environments that tell a story about a community, which is why Landrum Park features many play elements that are connected to the community’s culture, such as:

  • A custom honey bee tree
  • Honeycombs
  • Bee-shaped climbers
  • Flower shade elements
  • Tree climbers

Lendrum Park's Honeybee-themed playground - Click the image to view more photos


Not only can the Landmark Design group customize the theme of pieces like these, but they can also design the equipment itself to meet your specification. The Landmark Design team’s work at Lendrum Park shows how embracing a natural landscape doesn’t always mean working around a hillside.  

Building Play Into the Environment

Millard Cooper Park — Sykesville, MD

Millard Cooper Park has been a central hub for recreation in the small town of Sykesville, MD, for decades, but city officials envisioned the park becoming even more than that. The city wanted to capitalize on the park's heavy usage with their recent renovations, so they set out to build a “non-traditional” playground.  This was necessary considering the playground area's unique topography, which is separated into three tiers at different elevations. The structure of the space is reminiscent of the Incan terraces in South America, with sharp declines leading off from each section. The unusual arrangement restricted the pieces the design team could choose. Still, he felt the limitations caused by the tiers also provided an opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind playground area that strayed from tradition. 

“The pieces we chose were definitely based on what could fit into that area,” City Grant Manager Jared Schumacher says. “But we also wanted to pick some unique pieces, something a little more non-traditional.”

Custom playground nets made it possible to create fun activities that work with the unique topography - Click the image to view more photos

The lack of width of each section of the playground reduced the variety of pieces the design team could consider. Still, they eventually decided to install a zipline, a rope carousel, and a racing ropes course, which is the first of its kind to be installed! Working with the natural environment, the design team wanted to brainstorm a fun way to connect multiple tiers of the playground, and what better way to get from one terrace to another than a slide? These pieces aren’t the final additions to "The Coop" either, as the city plans to install a 2,500-square-feet splash pad area at the bottom tier later this year.

Custom Play Solutions for Your Community

Working around the natural environment of a play space is often a challenge for playground designers. Many planners and landscape architects embrace this situation with rope-based play and nets, like GameTime’s VistaRope products. 

If you could use the help of GameTime’s Landmark Design group to custom-design or theme your local playground, contact the custom play expert in your neighborhood or request our custom play spaces catalog.