Bear Creek Park Playground and Nature Play Experience

Denver, Colorado

Bear Creek Park's renovation has transformed the tired concrete sombrero sculpture and redesigned it to be the centerpiece of an innovative regional discovery playground. 

Design Concepts began the park redesign in 2007, and created a conceptual plan with input from Denver Parks and Recreation and the community through a series of public meetings. Construction for the one-acre $500,000 playground began in 2008. The grand opening took place on July 7, 2009. 

The themes for the playground are nature and history in Colorado. Major elements include play features inspired by Colorado wildlife and history, and play areas designed for different ages. The main Discovery Playground area focuses on the Sombrero Slide, an existing sculpture-slide which was renovated and is now a festive red color. Design Concepts developed a design story, etched in a playground wall, which incorporates the sombrero as the hat of a giant cowboy who comes across Bear Creek and settles in for a nap. This play area includes the emerging knee and foot of the sleeping giant cowboy. 

Concrete paths leading from a reconfigured parking lot connect the various play and picnic areas. A new central overlook area with picnic tables provides views of the main Discovery Playground, the Headwaters water-play plaza, and an area for toddlers that includes a play structure and a sandy digging area with a water pump. An expanded picnic area with horseshoe pits is located just south of the parking lot. Other elements include the Time Capsule, containing treasures buried by the City of Denver, the Nature's Classroom amphitheater, sandblasted boulders, the Blue Heron "tree house," and swings. Bioswales next to the parking lot, native plantings, and two dozen trees complete the new sustainable landscape.