water 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