A Guide to Choosing Outdoor Park Accessories

Guide to choosing park accessories

| Nov 30, 2021

A Guide to Choosing Outdoor Park Accessories

When implementing a new or upgraded park project, you’ll have to choose which outdoor park amenities to include. While it would be great to include everything, you likely have a budget and space you’ll need to work within. Learning about the different types of park accessories and what to consider when buying them will help you choose the best amenities for your project. Adding these new park site furnishings will help you create a stylish and functional space for your community to enjoy. 

How to Choose Furniture for Parks

You’ll have to consider several factors when choosing what accessories to include in your park. Think about who will be using the park, the goals for the park, how much maintenance will be required, your budget and how you’ll achieve design consistency. Use the following suggestions and considerations to help you design an outdoor park.

Determine the Target Audience

First, consider your target audience. Who will be attending the park the most — families with young children, teenagers, adults or older adults? What audience do you want to appeal to? When choosing park site furnishings, it’s crucial to keep your intended audience’s wants and needs at the forefront. Always consider what amenities would most benefit your preferred audience. 

For example, families with young children might want a park with safe and exciting playgrounds and benches where the parents can supervise. Teenagers may prefer courts, athletic fields, nets for sports and bike racks. Adults may want a walking loop with several benches to rest at. Think about the demographics of the area you’re in and how to best appeal to your audience.

You should also plan for ADA accessibility. Regardless of your intended audience, your park must be accessible to people of all abilities. Specifically, choose furniture that’s ADA accessible to provide an accommodating and welcoming environment for everyone.

Set Park Goals

Next, think about your goals for the park. Do you want it to be a place for the community to exercise? If that’s the case, you should include benches along a jogging or biking trail. If you want it to be a place for people to gather, include plenty of picnic tables, trash receptacles and grills. Also, consider the future of the park. If there will be an opportunity to expand or upgrade the park in the future, make sure to leave room for that and consider how everything will fit together. 

Plan for Maintenance

All furniture and equipment require at least a little bit of maintenance. Because your furniture will be exposed to the elements, it’s best to choose site furnishings made of materials that are more suitable for outdoor use, such as plastic or aluminum.

Plastic is a minimal maintenance option due to its fade resistance and easy-to-clean surfaces. In comparison, aluminum is rust-resistant, durable and able to withstand sun exposure. Both options require some maintenance to keep them looking and performing their best, but this can easily be done with a quick clean.

In addition to the cleanliness and overall look of park furnishings, you also want to ensure they’re durable enough to last for years to come. Even with high traffic and weather exposure, your furniture should be able to withstand rusting, cracking, warping, peeling, rotting or breaking.

Our complete guide to outdoor furniture maintenance can help you understand the unique qualities and maintenance routines for various materials.

Stay Within the Budget

With every project comes a budget, and outdoor parks are no exception. Your budget will limit the number, type and material of the park accessories you can choose. Keeping your park goals, target audience and level of maintenance in mind will help you prioritize the equipment you need. If you have a very tight budget, try to write down a list of accessories you want to add in order of their importance.

However, don’t forget to factor maintenance into your budget. While choosing the less expensive material or brand may make sense to stay within your budget, you also have to consider the long-term maintenance budget. Over time, you may end up spending more on maintenance and repairs than you would have spent on a more premium product at the beginning.

Consider Consistency

While functionality is important, you’ll also want to create a cohesive look for all your site amenities. So, don’t overlook the material, design and color of your outdoor park accessories. Ensure your design choices are consistent across all selected accessories. The easiest way to achieve a cohesive look is by using outdoor furniture from the same collection.

When choosing furniture material, consider plastisol-coated steel, powder-coated metal or even recycled plastic lumber. Plastisol is a thick, durable coating that increases longevity, comfort and can come in many colors. Powder-coating also takes metal furniture to the next level with weather resistance and color options. Recycled plastic lumber is an environmentally friendly option that mimics the look of wood without the risk of fading or cracking.

Add a Unique Element

Once you’ve covered your basic and necessary furnishings, consider adding a unique space or element to your park to increase traffic and make your park stand out from others.

For example, you could add a free library that consists of a stand of free books for visitors to take and read in the park or take home. Add a “take a book, leave a book” sign to encourage visitors to donate their own used books so others can enjoy them. These libraries add a unique element to your park and can encourage visitors to stick around and enjoy their new books surrounded by nature.

Another option may be to add a community garden. Here, people can volunteer to care for the garden. This can be a great way to bring the community together and get people invested in the park, almost as if they have ownership in the area. A community garden can be extremely beneficial in urban areas where people may not have their own backyards to garden in.

Use social media to gauge the public’s interest in what elements they would like to see included in the park. Regardless of what the unique space is, it’s important to have something that makes your park different from all the rest — especially if there are other parks in close proximity. A unique space can drive interest in the park and may even become an attraction for tourists.

Keep Safety in Mind

Safety should always be a number one priority during outdoor park accessory planning. The type of equipment and furniture chosen should keep visitor safety in mind.

All of these are important to consider when designing a public outdoor space:

  • Will rust develop and pose a danger to visitors?
  • Are there enough shaded areas available to protect visitors from harmful sun rays?
  • Will there be signs posted to provide instructions and warn of any potential dangers?

Find a High-Quality Park Site Furnishing Provider

When designing any outdoor or indoor space, it’s best to find a manufacturer that can provide all the furniture your space needs. This improves consistency in terms of design, quality and maintenance. Ordering from the same provider also allows you to benefit from bulk order savings.

When looking for your ideal provider, look for customization options, as this can help you create unique furnishings or match new furnishings to older equipment. While you may not find the perfect match, manufacturers that provide customization options will likely be able to color-match for you to create a cohesive look.

Additionally, as a park owner or employee, you likely understand the importance of protecting the planet and keeping nature beautiful. When selecting furniture for your park, you should consider choosing furnishings made of recycled plastic lumber. Recycled plastic lumber is made from 100% plastic materials that would have otherwise ended up in landfills. Increasingly, recycled plastic lumber is used as a wood alternative because of its versatility and close visual resemblance to wood. This material is more sustainable and requires less maintenance than real wood furniture.

Types of Outdoor Park Accessories

Learning the types of outdoor park accessories will help you figure out which ones are most important in your outdoor project. Learn more about popular park site furnishings and how to choose the right furniture for your park below.

Benches

Every outdoor space should have attractive and comfortable benches for people to sit down on and enjoy the park. Benches allow visitors to spend more time in the park because they have a comfortable place to rest. You can also choose to place memorial benches that members of the community can dedicate to someone. Memorial benches can be a great way to interact and build connections with the community. Additionally, for comfortable and elegant lounging, you can also incorporate bench swings in your park.

Benches should be available around playgrounds, walking trails, athletic fields and courts, dog parks and anywhere else people might need to sit down to relax. Thoughtfully and strategically place your benches in areas with good views, for example. This makes your benches seem more appealing and allows people to sit and relax while also enjoying the beauty of your park. The view could be a lake, fountain, garden or a grove of trees. You’ll also want to place some benches in the shade and others in the sun. Consider how much traffic your park gets when choosing the number of benches you’ll need.

There are many designs you can pick when it comes to benches. From traditional wooden park benches to metal or plastic benches, there are plenty of bench material options to choose from. Remember, choosing a design is important in creating a sense of cohesion across the entire park. Benches should match and look like they are part of the same place while also adding visual appeal.

The bench material you choose will affect many things, such as weather resistance, maintenance requirements, comfort, appearance, weight and price. Material options include:

  • Wood: Wood is a traditional and natural-looking material that complements many outdoor spaces. Since wooden benches have some give to them, they’re typically more comfortable than other bench materials like metal. However, wooden benches can be more susceptible to weather damage, splintering, fading and other wear and tear. If the benches are somewhere with a moderate climate, little temperature change and low humidity, they can be quite durable and not require a lot of maintenance. In other places, wood benches will require regular weatherproofing to stay in good condition.
  • Metal: Metal benches are very durable, require little maintenance and can be fabricated in many different elegant and intricate designs. However, they may need a sealant to prevent rust, and they can be uncomfortable due to their hard structure and their tendency to get hot. To combat this, metal benches can be powder-coated or coated in something like Plastisol, giving them some additional advantages.
  • Plastic: Recycled plastic benches are a lightweight and eco-friendly option. Plastic benches can be styled in various ways and can even be made to look like wood — so the design options are endless. Plus, lighter-weight benches are great for letting people move and rearrange the seating placements. However, with recycled plastic benches, you’ll need to find a way to secure them to the ground in case of high winds or storms.

Picnic Tables

Parks can be great places for people to spend time together, study, eat and host events. Placing picnic tables and dining sets around your outdoor park gives people a great place to hang out. When choosing picnic tables, you’ll need to consider the size and material.

Table size is extremely important when selecting the right picnic tables for your park — You want the table to look like it fits in the area and isn’t too big or too small. If your tables are too big, they can take up valuable space in your outdoor area, and if they’re too small, they may not meet the needs of park visitors. To avoid these issues, make sure to measure the area you plan to install them. Plan for a few feet around each table so that people can comfortably move around them.

It’s also a good idea to use a variety of different size tables to accommodate a variety of visitors. Some tables can seat just two people while others fit as many as eight people, so visitors will appreciate having a few different options.

In addition to the size of picnic tables, you also need to consider maintenance. Remember, people may spill drinks or food, so you’ll want to choose a table that’s easy to clean. Typically, smooth tabletops are ideal for low-maintenance cleaning.

For the sake of consistency, your picnic tables should match your benches when it comes to material. This will help give your park a cohesive look, and it will also make maintenance easier. Each amenity will require the same maintenance if you choose matching materials.

Game Tables

Parks are often places where the community gathers to socialize and spend time together outside. Adding special game tables increases the activities people can enjoy while at the park. For example, tables with checkerboard tabletops allow guests to enjoy a game of checkers or chess. Visitors can bring their own group to play with, or they can meet new people and socialize in the gaming areas.

Just knowing that there are tables meant for games will entice people to stay at the park longer. These unique game areas can also remind visitors that there are so many ways to enjoy the park other than the traditional activities like walking, playing on playgrounds or riding a bike.

Shade Structures

Your outdoor space can definitely benefit from adding shade structures. Sun exposure causes skin damage even on cloudy days, so providing areas with shade is important in protecting your visitors and increasing their comfort.

Shaded areas allow visitors to have an area to rest and cool off. The provided shade can also reduce eye strain. Whether kids need a place to take a break and cool down while playing on a playground or families want a comfortable shaded place to enjoy lunch, you can expect visitors to seek out shaded areas.

You can choose to provide shade with trees, umbrellas, shaded seating or a combination of all three. Adding umbrellas to your park adds aesthetic value and protection from harmful UV rays. Choose high-quality commercial umbrellas that can endure all types of weather conditions and last for a long time. Umbrellas made with fiberglass support ribs are some of the best on the market and will stay strong in tough weather. Add umbrellas to tables or install them freestanding to provide comfortable shade.

You can also choose tables and seating arrangements that already have shade structures attached. These shaded amenities can simplify planning while providing comfortable areas for people to hang out at your park.

Trash Receptacles

Keeping your park clean will be much easier if you provide plenty of trash receptacles. Placing them all over the park will encourage your visitors to clean up the park and throw away their trash. You may also want to consider adding recycling bins around the park to promote environmentally-friendly practices. While it may not be necessary to place them all over the outdoor area, you should put them in designated eating and picnic areas so that people can recycle any bottles they may have brought.

If you decide to use both types of receptacles, make sure to clearly mark which receptacles are for trash and which are for recycling. You may also need to place signs reminding people what can and can’t be recycled. Additionally, to promote a clean park, you may want to choose trash receptacles that have included ashtrays or install separate ash urns as needed. This is another important way to keep your park clean while also preventing potential fires.

Some considerations for trash receptacles include:

  • Location: Trash receptacles are only helpful if people can easily access them. The number one most important thing to consider when placing trash bins is that they must be highly visible. Trash receptacles should be placed all around the park — you never know where someone may take a snack break and need to throw away their trash. When people have trash to throw away, they will look around for a trash can. If they can’t see one, your park may be in trouble!
  • Design: Surprisingly, there are quite a few styles of trash receptacles. There are cylindrical and rectangular shapes, different lid types, various material types and different mounting options. To learn more about the various trash receptacles available and how to choose the right one for your park, check out our outdoor trash receptacle guide.
  • Number and size: Make sure to install enough trash receptacles of appropriate sizes to accommodate all the trash people may need to dispose of. Outdoor trash bins often come in 22-gallon, 32-gallon or 55-gallon sizes. Choose if you’d rather have a higher number of smaller bins or fewer large ones. Either way, prioritize placing trash receptacles around eating areas and entrances.

Bike Racks

Installing bike racks at your park is a great way to encourage physical activity. With bike racks in place, people may be more likely to bike to the park rather than drive there, which is great for the environment and can also increase your parking capacity. If you have bike paths, you’ll need bike racks near restrooms so people can take a break and go to the bathroom without having to worry about their bikes.

A few different types of bike racks and bike loops can accommodate a different number of bikes. You’ll have to consider the space you’ll be placing them to determine if you need a two-sided rack, a one-sided rack or a few standalone bike racks. The type of rack you choose will also depend on how many bikes you think you will need to accommodate.

Dog Park Accessories

If you are designing a fenced-in dog park, you’ll also need to consider the additional accessories for this area. For example, you’ll need to add seating areas like benches or picnic tables for owners to relax while supervising their pets. A highly-recommended addition is dog waste stations with an appropriate receptacle and disposable bags so owners can clean up after their pets. Also, consider adding tunnels or hurdles for the dogs to play in — this can make your dog park more appealing to dog owners. You can even add dog water fountains or a spigot where people can fill up bowls for their dogs to drink from.

Grills

Grills add a significant benefit to the space, allowing people to host events and cook food. There are different ways to incorporate grills into your park. One way is to offer separate event areas that people can reserve for a small fee. This encourages community engagement and allows people to host family gatherings, parties or weddings.

Open, non-covered grills are a cheaper option that can allow you to place multiple in an area or spread them out in different locations. However, they will have to be installed under a solid shelter, such as under a pavilion.

Covered grills are more advanced and can hold in smoke when cooking food. While these tend to be expensive, they don’t need to be placed under a protective shelter since the lid will protect the grill from the elements. So, if you don’t have a sheltered area already available for grills, it may be cheaper, in the long run, to invest in self-covered grills. 

Fire Rings

You can also choose to incorporate fire rings in your park. However, you will need to make sure that fire safety guidelines are strictly enforced. Safety signs or instructions should be in place to ensure fire pits are used responsibly. Fire rings can be used for small gatherings, cooking food and providing light and warmth at night, and be extremely beneficial for parks that offer camping grounds or nighttime events.

Hand Sanitizing Stations

As mentioned earlier, safety should always be a top priority, and this includes protection from the spread of infections. Commonly touched playground equipment has over 52,000 times more bacteria than toilet seats. Other surfaces at your park can also harbor bacteria after many visitors use your amenities. Providing outdoor hand sanitizing stations throughout your park can help keep people safe and surfaces cleaner. 

Planters

In terms of the visual aspect of your park, planters can be a great addition to indoor and outdoor spaces. They allow you to incorporate different plants and small trees and make your park more visually appealing. Add them to patios, pavilions or anywhere else that could use a touch of greenery or color. Consider using exotic plants with vibrant leaves that you may not grow in other areas of your park. 

A beautifully designed park can be more appealing to visitors looking for a scenic place to exercise, host events or enjoy beautiful weather. Overall, durable commercial outdoor planters can provide a lot of value to your park.

Tree Grates

Trees are essential parts of every park and outdoor area. They provide shade, beauty and fresh air. However, in order to keep these trees safe, they sometimes need protection. Tree grates are placed on the roots of a tree and provide numerous benefits to the tree and your visitors, such as:

  • Preventing people from tripping on roots.
  • Protecting roots from damage.
  • Providing space for the roots to get sun, air and water.
  • Creating a visually attractive area around the tree.

Signage

Informational signage in your park tells people how to use the amenities appropriately. With signage in place, you can encourage safe behaviors and provide visitors with any information they may need. Some key signs to include in your park include:

  • Informational or directional signs: Informational signs help guests navigate the park. Directory signs allow visitors to find their way to certain areas, which can be extremely helpful in larger parks. These signs can also include emergency numbers or contact information for those who require extra guidance or assistance.
  • Building signs: Use signs to indicate different facilities, pavilions and buildings within the park. Visitors can use these signs to understand their location on a map or remember which route they took. This is also helpful for visitors who are hosting events on the property. It’s much easier for party guests to find the spot in the park they’re supposed to be when signs are present.
  • Playground rules signs: Playground signs can indicate the age limit and rules parents should be aware of before letting their children play in the area.
  • Grill rules signs: Signs in the grill area provide visitors with proper instructions on how to start the grill and the procedure they should follow when they’re done using the equipment. This can help keep the area looking cleaner and ensure each visitor is able to use the grills as intended.
  • Fire rings safety signs: Fire safety signs should always be in place to promote safe fire practices. Remind visitors of the rules and laws they need to follow in order to use this amenity and provide emergency numbers as an extra safety precaution.
  • Trash receptacles indicator signs: If both trash and recycling receptacles are used throughout the park, use signage to indicate which receptacle is for trash and which is for recycling. You may also want to use signs to remind guests what items can be recycled. Additionally, if you choose decorative trash receptacles, you may want to provide clarity that they are, in fact, trash bins that visitors can use.
  • Sponsor or memorial signs: If your park receives sponsorships for a playground, building or facility, consider honoring this donation through a commemorative sign.

Choose Wabash Valley Site Furnishings

Wabash Valley Site Furnishings offers high-quality outdoor accessories that can bring your park to the next level. When it comes to choosing the right amenities, you want durable, low-maintenance and attractive options. Luckily, at Wabash Valley Site Furnishings, we specialize in high-end outdoor furniture and site amenities, so we have everything you need to design the park that best serves your community.

We offer over 20 different product collections and two unique lines — our Urbanscape line of powder-coated furnishings and our Heritage line of Plastisol-coated outdoor furniture. Our Heritage line is tough and can endure even the heaviest weather conditions. The Plastisol coating on our heritage line is 30 times thicker than paints. Additionally, the powder coatings on the Urbanscape line will ensure your amenities last a long time without much maintenance. Our Urbanscape line offers high-end, attractive, and affordable powder-coated aluminum and recycled plastic lumber that is built to last.

Browse our product offerings and park installations for ideas for what to include in your park, or contact us today to learn more about how our team can help you develop the best park for your community. Our team can provide seasoned industry advice, present project estimates or quotes and discuss customization options. Bring the best park furnishings to your park by working with us today.