(Local resident Joseph Alberts, now 35, playing at Caboose Park in 1981)
A playground is more than just a place for kids to get their wiggles out before lunch time. Parks and playgrounds harbor some of our most treasured childhood memories. Some folks can recall a favorite playground in vivid detail right down to the color of the slide, though most of them were probably metal and would not meet today’s rigid safety standards. Even “McDonaldland” with its concrete flooring, rusty Ham-burglar swings and giant cheeseburger jail would never fly in this era of safe, non-threatening play environments. But in the eyes of a 7-year-old, the more adventurous the better.
The real estate market consistently demonstrates that people are willing to pay more for property located near a nice, family-friendly park. In the New River Valley, one doesn’t have to go very far to find a variety of parks that are fun (and safe). Many new neighborhoods incorporate walking trails and a playground into their required green space.
Bisset Park, Radford City
Bisset is Radford’s largest city park on 57 acres of riverfront land in the central part of the city. The children’s playground is always bustling with action, and the 3.5-mile Riverway Trail is paved for biking and strolling. It continues into Wildwood Park, which is an ideal place for picnicking in the shade, birdwatching and even a cool dip in the river.
Town of Blacksburg Municipal Park
Also known to locals as “Caboose Park,” Blacksburg’s flagship playground sits on 35 acres, and several generations of children have enjoyed this park for the allure of its big, red caboose. The Hand-in-Hand playground, a sprawling wooden maze of climbing areas, bouncing balance beams and bridges, opened to the public in 1992. It is shady and cool in the summer, and the enclosed sandbox is great for toddlers.
Randolph Park, Dublin
Randolph Park is a $6 million state-of-the-art facility that boasts 87 acres of premier outdoor recreation. This beautiful park has become a destination spot for many outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy swimming in the 8-lane pool and sliding down its 38-foot water slide. The playground is nestled among basketball and tennis courts, as well as sand volleyball courts and horseshoe pits. There is truly something for everyone.
Montgomery County Mid County Park; Christiansburg
Let’s face it, taking toddlers into Bed Bath and Beyond or Target is not always advisable. But if you must do it, a quick trip to the Mid-County Park beforehand can make the experience much more tolerable. Located off Pepper’s Ferry Road on Cinnabar, this park sits on 110 acres and features a large playground with a zip line, bridge and great slides. There is a gorgeous nature trail loop system with wildlife habitat areas and lots of juicy wild berries in the summer. The neighboring Golden Hills disc golf course brings images of Machu Picchu to mind with its stepped hills and mountainous backdrop. And, of course, if you get too hot, the Frog Pong pool is right next door!
It is a blessing to raise children in the New River Valley with playgrounds, parks, duck ponds and trails everywhere. In some places like Heritage Park and Foxridge, there’s a bucolic backdrop of grazing cows, horses, sheep, donkeys and even the occasional llama. So much to offer even the tiniest adventure seekers.
By Emily Alberts
Emily Alberts is a local freelance writer and mom who loves that there are so many playgrounds for her children.