Reconstruction of Tarr-Coyne Wild West Playground

Our reconstruction of Tarr-Coyne Wild West Playground was designed to increase play value, improve the playground’s relationship to the Park, and address current safety and accessibility standards.

Tarr-Coyne Wild West Playground was built in 1988, replacing one of the original perimeter playgrounds constructed in the 1930s under Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. The architect Richard Dattner designed the 1988 playground in the adventure style. Adventure-style playgrounds feature interconnected play structures that are intended to encourage exploration and imaginative play.

A shallow concrete trench is a feature of the playground before reconstruction

Wild West Playground before reconstruction

Dattner’s playground was designed in a western theme, with timber structures and a low timber wall that divides the space into four distinct play areas. Intended to evoke a frontier town, the design featured a water channel traversing the length of the playground; intended to represent the Colorado River, it connected a spray feature at either end.

The overarching goals of the playground’s reconstruction were to preserve the Wild West theme and overall layout, while better integrating it into the surrounding landscape, enhancing the play experience, and updating it to meet current design standards for safety, accessibility, and sustainability.

A few parents watch as a toddler prepares to slide down the sliding pond

Playground after reconstruction

Our work included:

  • Redesigning character-defining play elements and surfacing to meet safety and accessibility standards
  • Reconstructing the central water feature to conserve water and increase play value
  • Replacing the existing fence surrounding the playground with a lower and more transparent landscape fence to blur the line between playground and Park
  • Restoring the surrounding landscape and modernizing the infrastructure that supports the playground and landscape
  • Rebuilding paths to create an accessible route from the Park entrance and West Drive

This project is part of the Conservancy’s effort to guide the continued stewardship of Central Park’s 21 playgrounds, as outlined in Plan for Play: A Framework for Rebuilding and Managing Central Park’s Playgrounds.

Several children surround the water feature on a cloudless summer day

The new water feature

Also in the area