The start of fall means cool weather and bright, crisp mornings. It’s an ideal time to explore the outdoors, and a Tucson mom and her son are doing just that.
After taking a break over the summer Maloree Renaud and her 3-year-old son will continue their exploration of every park in Tucson — all 120-plus of them.
On a recent Friday, Renaud and her son set out to explore Hoffman Park. The small grassy field with its colorful play equipment is tucked into a neighborhood off East Broadway and South Swan Road.
Renaud said she loves discovering these so-called “pocket parks.”
“These are the places that we never would find, unless it was for a project like this,” she said.
Friday-morning adventures have become a ritual for the two as they make their way to all 127 parks in Tucson. That count doesn’t include parks that have intergovernmental agreements with the city.
The project began when Renaud decided to spend more time outside with her son and start journaling. Her resolution pushed her to start a blog, Playable Parks, where she posts articles and photos of the parks they visit. (Read it at www.playableparks.com online.)
The blog has even introduced people knowledgeable about Tucson parks to places they’d never heard of.
“I know that people are seeing what she is doing and finding these little hidden gems, because some parks I actually didn’t even know we had,” said Sierra Davenport, community relations and marketing manager at Tucson Parks and Recreation.
Renaud and her son, whom she prefers not to identify for privacy reasons, started their journey in February and have visited 25 parks. Dubbing himself “Captain Awesome,” her son is diligent at discovering parks’ nooks and crannies and climbing to the highest point of every playground.
Renaud said she wants to donate to the parks through her project. She started painting scenes from photos she took at the parks and plans to sell them on her blog, then give the money to the Tucson Parks Foundation.
The foundation and the Tucson Parks and Recreation Department said they’ll figure out how to put the money toward park projects.
“We will work with Maloree to see what kind of stuff she was thinking of doing with it,” Davenport said.
Renaud said that in her journaling she highlights unique aspects of each playground and points out her son’s favorite part.
“I try to look for a distinct feature in each park,” she said. “I know every park has its good features, and that is what I want to celebrate.”
Her paintings also focus on individual characteristics of each park.
“The Himmel Park slide was the first painting that I did,” she said. “For me, that is the most iconic playground piece in Tucson. It is the tallest, fastest, scariest slide around.”
The next part of her Playable Parks project will be kid-friendly maps, Renaud said. She’s working with Tucson Parks and Recreation, looking at park maps and layouts to create illustrated plans with cartoon icons.
“The idea is to have a catalog of these maps, so the kids can explore the park with the map,” Renaud said.
So far, she has made a map of McCormick Park, 2950 N. Columbus Blvd., and will begin working on a map of Himmel Park, 1000 N. Tucson Blvd.
“It seems like a really cool idea, just to get kids more actively involved in the park and searching for things and making it a little more fun and interactive,” Davenport said.
Once the maps are completed, and if they can get funding, Davenport said Tucson Parks and Recreation will print a couple and make them available at the parks.
“What a cool way to discover a park — through a kid’s eyes, too. You see how they are seeing the park at the same time,” Davenport said.
Meanwhile, back at Hoffman Park, the sun shines through the branches of a mesquite tree as Renaud plays and laughs with her son.
“What’s a better way to spend a beautiful day?” she asked.