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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Nature Playground to sprout up at Westminster Station Park

Nature Playground to sprout up at Westminster Station Park

How many of you played on logs, climbed hills or made tree houses when you were a kid? That’s the idea behind the latest playground design at Westminster Station Park. The city plans to incorporate those design elements, called nature play, into the park this fall. Kids today do not have many opportunities to experience and play in nature, so the city is bringing nature to them.

“There is a lot of science behind ‘nature play,’” said Senior Landscape Architect Nicole Ankeney. “Kids stay and interact longer at this style of playground. It’s good for their physical and mental health.”

The nature playground will be on the west side of Westminster Station Park along Lowell Blvd. It will have a hybrid of natural materials, a sand area with fun things to dig for, a water play feature, a series of tree houses to walk between, embankment slides and a climbing area with nets and logs. The playground area will also include a shaded pavilion with seating, picnic tables and restrooms.

The park was designed for the city by Matrix Design Group and Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds this past spring, based on a master plan from 2006 for the Westminster Station and Little Dry Creek corridor.  The playground is scheduled to start construction this fall with an anticipated opening date of summer 2018.

For the climbing portion of the playground, the city is reusing existing materials in Colorado and the city. Boulders were purchased from a quarry in Fairplay to recreate natural areas along Little Dry Creek and the playground. Trees from the park site and throughout the city will be utilized as climbing elements for kids.

Arbor Force, a local contractor, removed and preserved five trees on the park site last summer.

“We have been working with the Forestry department to see if there were additional trees in the city that were ‘on the chopping block’ that could be used in the playground,” said Ankeney.

Working with City Forester John Kasza, they identified three ash trees that needed to be removed, but could be used as climbing logs in the playground. The city removed the smaller branches leaving just the trunk and some major branches. They then transported the trees to the new park for future installation.

The playground will meet national safety standards and be ADA accessible with a ramp leading up a “mountain” and multiple bridges to the tree houses.

“We wanted to balance accessibility with difficulty for the kids. The playground should have challenging elements for kids of all ages and abilities and be aesthetically pleasing,” said Ankeney.

The playground landscaping will be a blend of native plants and grasses with sod for active play. Extensive planting will cover 25% of the playground on opening day to ensure there is enough shade for families to enjoy the playground.

Once completed, the playground will be the largest nature-style playground in Metro Denver.

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