The Waters: Kids’ Lives

[I visited The Waters, a fledgling “New Urbanist” community in Alabama, in early February. This is the second in a series of four articles about my visit there. The other three are The Waters: A Very Tight-Knit Community, The Waters: How Town Planning and Architecture Help Create Community, and The Waters: Self-Selection and the Pioneer Effect.]

This is a recent ad for The Waters.  A Playborhood?  A Kids' Paradise?  Can they live up to this hype?  Well, after visiting there, I can honestly say, 'Yes, they can!'

The Waters truly is a “Kids’ Paradise,”as they claim in their marketing literature. Kids have a great life outside, throughout the community. I can confirm this from my own observations even though I was there in the middle of winter. Residents assured me that I would see even more kid outdoor activity if I were there in the summer.

In the day I was there, I saw many, many instances of kids wandering on their own, comfortable and safe. Certainly, parents are very involved in their kids’ lives there, but they don’t hover over them the way they do in most places. In fact, parents routinely “pinch-hit” for each other, watching each other’s kids.Many residents liken The Waters to a vacation resort for kids, and I can’t disagree. Kids have the best of both worlds – urban living with a high density of people and kids on the one hand, and country amenities like a lake, a sandy beach, and plentiful open space and woodlands on the other.

At one point in the video linked here, a mother says, 'It's a horrible, horrible day if [they] don't play with friends.'  Wow...

What’s interesting is that, while kids at The Waters have very active social lives with each other, the community doesn’t have a particularly high density of kids. The community currently has 30 children between 0 and 12 in a community of 110 homes. That’s probably a bit below average for the United States, but because homes are so close together and because the kids are allowed to roam rather freely, they get together rather frequently.

The only real downside to kids lives at The Waters is that they have no neighborhood school, so parents have to drive them to various schools in the Montgomery, AL area. Thus, kids there don’t walk to school, and they don’t have a shared school experience.

The developers of The Waters are currently working very hard to bring a neighborhood elementary school there. They have designated a location, and are working with other local officials to make it happen. The earliest this school would open, if it does indeed clear the remaining political hurdles, would be Fall of 2009.

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