By Kristen Wilson
Prairie Fields Park is a neighborhood kid favorite, but also appeals to families in neighboring subdivisions for its proximity (Prairie Meadows, Lake Falls, etc.), families picking up their school-aged children, and those who may be making a trip to Savoy Walmart (or other businesses) and needing the kids to run off that extra energy before heading home.
This 10-acre park features a baseball field, a soccer field, a small pavilion (which can be used on a first-come, first-served basis but cannot be reserved like some other pavilions at parks), picnic tables, a rock climbing wall, two separate play areas based on the age of your child, a bike storage area, and a portable toilet for those emergency situations! According to the Savoy Recreation website there are some potential future expansion plans as well.
GOOD FOR: All ages.
THE DOWNSIDE ACCORDING TO KRISTY: We play at this park on a regular basis, so please note that the downsides are few in my mind and nothing to keep us from frequenting, but they are nonetheless noteworthy.
While I don’t know the true definition of what makes a park “accessible” it would appear that this one is not, or at the very least is only somewhat accessible. There is a ramp that leads to the main play area, however, once a child reaches the top of the ramp the options are crawling through a small tunnel or sliding down a slide. There are also not any of the accessible swings that some local parks are now offering for youth who cannot use a traditional swing.
Second, the steps leading to the slides on the larger play structure are steep! The first time that we went to the park last year my daughter had just turned 2 years old and was still learning the nuances of walking up and downs steps (you know that time in a kids life when they have mastered walking/toddling in a straight line and so now they just want to go up and down steps and climb on everything?), so she was fascinated with all the climbing features at this park. In particular, she loved climbing up the 14-plus steps that lead to the larger slides, then turning around and trying to walk, forward facing, back down them. For this reason they terrified me! We experienced several tantrums on these steps and the platform leading to them because I refused to let her walk forward facing down them. This year the steps aren’t such a big deal to her or for her given her size and climbing mastery, but those with smaller children beware! These steps are almost like having ladders on the playground.
Third, if you are visiting the park during the school year note that starting around 10:50 a.m. you will likely be sharing the park with the older children (fourth and fifth graders) who attend Carrie Busey. I asked a teacher once who told me that “we bring the older kids out to play on this structure for recess and have the younger kids use the playground behind the school.” I have a 3-year-old who has consistently been off the charts for height and weight and I always leave once the big kids come out for fear that she will get trampled. Finally, make sure to bring some sunscreen. This section of the subdivision is newer and does not have mature trees to provide shade to the play area.
THE UPSIDE ACCORDING TO KRISTY: Well, for us it’s proximity, but that aside I believe the biggest appeal about this park is the diversity of its activities. Kids can climb, slide, swing, run the nearby fields, play a bit of soccer or practice pitching/hitting (that is if there aren’t any scheduled matches/games) all within easy line-of-site of parent/guardians. If you have little ones who are just learning to explore climbing and slides there is a small play structure that is age appropriate for those 3 years and under. Once your child gets a bit more adventurous they can move up to the larger play structure that has bigger slides (some bumpy, some curvy and some pretty steep), advanced climbing options, a tic-tac-toe game and a stand-alone rock climbing wall that I have seen be a hit with both kids and parents!
The bonus of this park is that if you find that your child is too tempted by things that are too advanced for him/her (this was us last year with the steps leading to the big-kid slides), then you can always walk around the back of the school and find another playground all together. NOTE: this playground does belong to the school and can only be used on non-school days, during the summer, and after school hours. We refer to this smaller play structure as the “blue park” (Prairie Fields Park is green) and I will often take my daughter here if I want to keep her more contained for some reason (i.e. I need to attend to our younger child or I don’t have the energy to chase her around and stand behind her as she climbs things that are taller than me!).
All in all Prairie Fields Park is a great one! My daughter asks on a regular basis if we can go there and always comes home worn out and ready for a nap/bed!