Playing and Learning at Carpinteria State Beach
A group of brave young “Chumash” returns to their village of thatched houses after rowing their plank canoe out on the ocean, while nearby dolphins and a curious harbor seal look on. Other children cross a rainbow bridge from an island to the mainland under the watchful eye of a bald eagle in her nest. Still other kids enjoy sliding down a cloudburst slide or an exciting roller slide after ducking through a cave marked with colorful Chumash rock art. All of this fun and imaginative play is taking place among large sandstone boulders and native California trees and plants, while parents and other care-givers keep a relaxed watch from nearby benches. It’s another typical day at the Tomol Interpretive Play Area at Carpinteria State Beach.
Few areas invite children to enjoy healthy outdoor play while they learn about California’s colorful history at the same time. The Tomol Interpretive Play Area is one of these special places. Found tucked into the northwest corner of Carpinteria State Beach in the coastal beach community of Carpinteria, this unique facility lets kids run, jump, slide and generally have fun while it encourages them to imagine living in a Chumash Indian village on the shore of the Pacific Ocean.
The interpretive play area, which opened in 2011, came about through the cooperative efforts of California State Parks, the Morning Rotary Club of Carpinteria, and the City of Carpinteria. Major funding was provided by the U.S. Land and Water Conservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, and by the California State Parks Foundation, a memorial endowment, local non-profit organizations, and private citizens. The interpretive play area was awarded the Universal Access Award by California State Parks for “outstanding achievement in increasing universal access” by all visitors regardless of physical limitations.
The Tomol Interpretive Play Area has proven to be extremely popular with local residents as well as visitors from the park’s nearby campgrounds and day-use area, and judging by the smiles on the faces of its youngest visitors, the facility promises to provide fun and learning for years to come.