Donald has been on a crusade to promote kid-driven, hands-on play. "A lot of people learn by touching and feeling and doing, and they excel that way," she says. "People drive two, three hours to come here."
Five staff members handle everything from replenishing the zip line's dirt landing zone to facilitating wood-painting and other play activities.
They keep a careful — yet mostly distant — eye on the children and what they're doing. If kids turn in wood with splinters or with a nail sticking out — called a "Mr. Dangerous" — they can earn paint and tools.
"You got it! Yay, Aly!" one staffer yells to a young girl as she makes her way across an old surfboard precariously balanced on a barrel.
THE CELLPHONE PROBLEM
So ... why are there so few of these wild playgrounds in the U.S.?
Fear of litigation is certainly an issue. But there are other factors, too, experts say. Among them are safety-obsessed, overprotective parents shepherding hyperscheduled children, and the fact that in America's cities and suburbs, play itself is in decline.
Donald worries that today's kids are controlled, coddled — and overscheduled. And some parents, she says, are often too distracted. "I find there are a lot of adults who don't know how to play with their kids."
Wait a minute, I ask: What do you mean there are parents who don't know how to play with their kids? I'm imagining awkward, distracted parents, fiddling with their iPhones because they don't get that they can actually interact with their children.
"Probably 75 percent of the parents that come in do that," Donald says. "The cellphone probably is the biggest problem we have. The parents are standing here, they're physically here."
But ... they're not really present, she says.
LIKE A PILLOW
"This is awesome; this is a neat little place," says Dave Davirro. He and his 11-year-old son, Nicholas, are in from Hawaii visiting relatives in California.
He says kids need more places like this. "They're tearing down swings in my city," because they're dangerous, Davirro says. "We're way overprotective. I want my child to experience that, you know, there is some danger in everything."
Right now, father and son are checking out the zip line. It's a huge draw at the Adventure Playground, and the rule is kids go first.
Any child over 6 can just let it rip, sliding right into a pile of dirt. "You know, to fall in the dirt like this is just great!" says Davirro.
At its apex, the line is about 8 or 9 feet off the ground. There's no net.
I cautiously climb the zip line's wooden ladder to a waiting area that's kind of like the crow's nest of a ship.
It overlooks the bay, all blue, calm and sunshine this day.
But the kids up here are not taking in the view. All eyes are on me. Six-year-old Rhiannon Edison seems annoyed that an adult is encroaching on the Good Ship Zip Line.
"Wait, why are you here?" Edison asks skeptically.
I tell them I'm here to do a story on the playground. The kids nod. The adult with the fuzzy microphone can stay. For now.
I ask them what they like about this place, and get a host of answers:
"The zip line."
"It's nice how you can build your own things."
"I like how you can land in the dirt, but the dirt is really soft. It's so soft that it just feels like a pillow to me."
Enough talk — one of them zips away, down into that soft pile of sand.
Now it's my turn. With all my recording gear, what could possibly go wrong? I ask a little girl, a zip line pro, for advice.
"Point your feet towards the dirt so that the sand doesn't get in your underwear" she says, adding, "and have fun."
The kids give me a bon voyage countdown in unison. Swoosh.