It’s been almost a decade since Richard Louv wrote about Nature Deficit Disorder that is impacting kids in his seminal book Last Child in the Woods. That book was largely credited with sparking the nature play movement and more and more playgrounds are based on this concept of allowing children to play in a natural setting, even if they’re in an urban setting. One such nature play park just opened by Boulder Creek at the Library.
On a mild winter morning in December, a dozen young kids scamper up and down the hills at the new Creekside Play area in front of the Boulder downtown library. Parents and caregivers huddle against the chill air nearby, watching their kids navigate the newly created terrain.
Kristyn Longtine says she really likes all the different climbing surfaces and areas this park has to offer. “The rocks are nice. It’s more natural for them to climb around. It’s not just a play structure.”
And that’s the point, says Denise White with Boulder Parks and Recreation “We had a lot of community involvement in developing the park. We heard that people wanted some nature play elements in this one: a way to connect with nature, be able to explore with safe risks, be in nature while still in the city.”
The Creekside Play Area took a little more than a year from breaking ground to opening day. It is part of the larger “Park at the Core” project that was approved by voters in 2004. The first phase, now complete, cost a total of $8.7 million with the children’s play area weighing in around $1 million, according to White, and as with most projects of this scope, the Park and Recreation department gathered community input. “We had a lot of meetings. We worked with Growing Up Boulder and spoke to kids of varying ages. We also took sketches from kids and parents and developed those into the designs, which is what you can now see at the park.”
The park features a sand and water area, a treehouse, and plenty of hills for running up and down, plus a grouping of timbers of varying heights to create an unconventional ladder up to the top of one slide.
Tiffany Hawkey follows her two year old as she navigates the steps. “The timbers are snugged together to create a series of staggered steps in such a way that the two year olds can get their hands and feet easily from one to the next and go right up. A lot of times, they can’t access the taller structures. There’s a little problem solving here and it’s really cool!”
The park also features 50% more lighting than the area had before, adds White. “We want our parks to be safe. We want all people to feel comfortable using the space. We’ve also opened up visibility channels, which means there are fewer places for people to hide, you could say.”