nature play

Rain won’t delay Inspiration Playground!

A kid runs in the water stream feature with sand and mud for nature play adventure at  Arapahoe Fairgrounds Park

Construction started last year on Inspiration Playground in Bellevue, Washington...then it started to rain and never stopped!  

Annual rain in the Seattle area is around 37 inches. (That already seems like a lot since our hometown in Lafayette, Colorado averages just 15.8 inches per year). But, since last October, over 45.9 inches of record rain has come down over in the Seattle area.  That’s almost 4 FEET of rain! The Seattle Times called nailed it when they said “Enough Already!

That’s a lot of water to deal with for a construction project.  No matter, the willpower and dedication to the making of Inspiration Playground has kept construction rolling and plans for opening are set for this summer.

Designing for Water

Speaking of water . . . knowing there’s going to be a lot of rain, ‘”managing water” is an important design feature.  Minimal use of sod is planned to minimize maintenance impact of saturated lawns.  Heavily planted rain gardens throughout the site will collect and provide natural water quality purification.  And a well-designed stormwater run-off system will move water along off the playground site.

Rainy-Day Play

“I learned early on in my parenting career that there’s no need to stay inside on a wet day,” said Linnea Westerlind, author of Discovering Seattle Parks, who created a best-of list of the “The Best Rainy-Day Parks and Playgrounds.”  Inspiration Playground will fit right in with these rain-friendly, puddle-jumping fun spots that Seattle area children enjoy.

Behind the Design at the Fairgrounds ... Nature Play

The ‘play valley’ is designed especially for children to engage with the environment and interact with nature. It is a contoured natural play field gently sloping down to the pond.  

In the valley, what seems to be part of the natural environment is actually designed into the site for the sole purpose of enticing children to play.  There are stepping logs, bridge log crossings, wood footbridges, and stepping-stones strategically placed for children to explore and play.  The contoured hills along the valley are natural magnets for kids to climb, and roll back down.  Even the pathway leading through the valley is a meandering winding trail that could create a journey. The most obvious feature throughout the valley is the stream making its way from the windmill down to the pond. It’s designed to mimic an eastern prairie stream that trickles and flows and even pools up in some areas. It’s a soft low-flowing enticing stop for children who will by their own nature, walk in it, splash in it and likely even sit in it!  

Nature play is about non-structure play. It’s ‘free play’ unbounded by structures or formality. It’s putting children in their natural environment and letting their minds work…naturally.  Here, there are simply opportunities provided to encourage that interaction.

The stream flowing over rock drops at Arapahoe Fairgrounds Park

Behind the Design at The Park at Arapahoe Fairgrounds . . . “Snippets of beauty replace utilitarian forms.”

The grand opening of The Park at Arapahoe Fairgrounds is happening Saturday, June 25, 2016 and will be a giant celebration mimicking a mini-fair.  The park is just one of the new offerings at the fairgrounds but it is chalk full of design features honoring the history and heritage of the open prairieland homestead.  Here is one of the behind the design stories about the seemingly small and overlooked water control systems.

Controlling Water

Water is on of the most important assets for rancher and farmer.  The ability to access it and to use it for sustenance dictates how agricultural and ranching assets are laid out.  Accessing ground water by way of wells and controlling rainwater support the irrigation. 

At The Park at Arapahoe Fairgrounds, water is a central feature.  It is the primary character in stories of the stream, windmills, ponds, and water runoff systems.

Forebay Sedimentation Basin

The forebay sedimentation basin is designed beyond a utilitarian need to direct and dissipate the flow of water.  Rather than a typical urban concrete eyesore, here the basin is treated as a special element complementing the natural environment with natural-looking boulders and a sand-filled bed to organize sediment running through the water corridor.  This design hints to what the original homesteaders might have used in 1905, as these natural materials might have been all that was available.

Not Your Standard Drainage Chases

Fitting the natural setting, drainage chases are small snippets of design interpretation. Using logs and stones (versus the typically-used PVC pipes), these systems for controlling the flow of water each have a unique personality fitting perfectly within the context of an historic homestead.