Construction begins on Children’s Nature Playscape in downtown Kalamazoo

Funds are secured, materials are ordered, and construction is set to begin on the Children’s Nature Playscape in Bronson Park, a new playground that will eventually be one of the largest natural games in an urban core.

The 130 feet square green space at 302 Academy Street, scheduled to open next summer, is a nature-inspired space that will give kids rocks and trees to climb, water to splash and logs to walk through – right in the middle. Kalamazoo town center.

“We anticipate a smooth opening on June 1,” said Jody Brylinsky, chair of the board of directors of Children’s Nature Playscape on Bronson Park. Children and families will be welcomed on the site with some areas still to be developed.

Construction will continue through 2022 as features and plants continue to be added. As is the case in the natural world, trees will grow larger, flowers will grow, and new exploration opportunities will continue.

Outdoor games are especially important now during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the new playground is a welcome opportunity, according to community leaders.

Rachel M. Roberts, director of preschool programs at the Kalamazoo Regional Education Services Agency, said the new play landscape will provide children with the opportunity to express themselves through nature and increase gross motor skills as well as their social skills.

Children can dig in the sand.“Amid COVID and the racial pandemics plaguing our country,” says Roberts, “gambling is a healthy way to treat mental health because it lends itself as an outlet for reducing stress and anxiety. “

Ming Li, dean of the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University, explains that nature’s new playful landscape serves as a place to “encourage children and their parents to connect with nature, to exercise their skills. right to play and to practice discovery-based learning in the heart of the city. “

The project began in 2019 when the First Congregational Church funded the purchase of the property and the necessary site preparation. The planning committee had hoped to do some of the site preparation this fall, but contractors’ delays in planning make that unlikely.

“At this point moving earth and concrete paving for features, putting up fencing and other necessary upgrades will happen when the weather breaks early next spring,” Brylinsky said. Still, behind-the-scenes materials are now on order and contractors slated for 2022.

“We hope to avoid any delays in the supply chain with this proactive action,” she said.

Construction will begin with a first official shovelful of earth, the date and time will be announced.

Meanwhile, the area near downtown Bronson Park remains an open green space.

A walkway is planned as part of the Children’s Nature Playscape.“The grass is still quite immature and has not been cleaned for small children to play,” Brylinsky explains.

But by next summer, that space will be transformed into a safe and accessible space for young children from all walks of life “to interact freely and creatively with the natural world,” Brylinsky said.

Nature’s playground will not include the usual array of swings, slides, and jungle gyms. Instead, kids will find shallow streams, rocks, trees, and other nature-inspired features.

The design of the play landscape is barrier-free and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It will feature a paved driveway, low log benches for the kids, and artistic benches for the adults.

The signs will be designed to meet the needs of families with visual or physical challenges, and as funds become available, small toilets will be erected in the northeast corner of the playground.

The playground will be lined with tall grasses, shrubs and native plants to create a sense of neighborhood and home. Much of the transformation will happen next spring with improvements to the landscape and the installation of age-appropriate play structures, including a pondless stream and grass turf. Mature trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials will take time to develop to the full extent of natural features.

There is a general play area and two child-friendly play areas that contain features such as a preschool log obstacle course, log climbing structure, sand play area and a hollow log tunnel. A sensory garden will be installed as funds become available.

In addition to providing city children with a place to have fun near Bronson Park, the new play landscape can help promote environmental education, from spontaneous play to formal education.

The design includes a performance platform for community groups to organize educational programs. With guidance from Potawatomi’s Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish group, the Kalamazoo Nature Center and other educational, spiritual and youth-focused community partners, nature-inspired public programming will be provided free of charge.

There is space for a few small raised garden beds to encourage understanding of food sources.

The playground will be surrounded by a 6-foot fence approved by the Kalamazoo Downtown Design Review Committee. Sufficient bicycle racks, wheelchair parking and garbage cans will make it easy for customers to help maintain a clean and healthy environment. There will be a large entrance at the southeast corner of the property welcoming everyone into the Playscape.

Instead of swings and slides, kids can climb stumps at Children’s Nature Playscape.Ideas for the space were developed with community input by a team led by Sandy Bliesener, Rachel Hughes-Nilsson and Deborah Dawe. Tricia Keala of Safer Outdoors, a member of the OCBA design team, helped create a park with as natural a setting as possible.

Fundraising continues to garner support from local foundations, philanthropic organizations and community members.

To find out how to volunteer, make an in-kind donation of materials, or make a financial donation, visit Kalamazooplayscape.org.

“Our landscape architect is storing materials,” Brylinsky said, “and we hope to launch an in-kind donation campaign where local nurseries and green industries can help“ green ”the play landscape.”

And after?

The Children’s Nature Playscape will participate in the national philanthropy campaign called #GivingTuesday on November 30 to raise $ 10,000 and provide specific funding for the Sensory Garden for all ages in the new Children’s Nature Playscape.

The sensory garden for all ages will have a special fence which children will enter through a secret door. The surfaces, objects and plants in the garden will stimulate the senses through touch, sight, smell and hearing. Visually impaired children will get an idea of ​​trees and shrubs identified by markers written in Braille and English. Priority will be given to plants, shrubs and grasses native to western Michigan, particularly those of cultural significance to the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Pottawatomi Indian Band.

Visit KalamazooPlayscape.org to participate in Giving Tuesday or to support the playscape.

About Children’s Nature Playscape

The Children’s Nature Playscape is a project of the First Congregational Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. All donations and contributions are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. The Children’s Nature Playscape does not sell or rent its donor list to any organization or broadcast house. The Children’s Nature Playscape Steering Committee oversees the development and operations of the Children’s Nature Playscape. Steering committee members represent leading community partners including First Baptist Church, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and many community youth / service organizations.


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