Westmoreland Nature Play Area, Portland Oregon, 2014

One of the great things about natural play features like jumping stones and timber scrambles is that they can be added to existing parks and playgrounds at both large and small scales.  This is a large scale project, but the goal of the Nature-based Play Initiative of the Portland Parks and Rec Department is to do just that; to add nature play to existing sites around the city.  Westmoreland is an exciting beginning, with a 60 foot long creek whose waters can be pumped up to the top of a creek mound, then dammed and sluiced into the sand play area.  There is a hill slide, and a huge timber scramble, and quiet space around the margins for free play fort-building.

I particularly like the massiveness of the timber ‘log jam’.  In my experience kids are attracted to overscaled objects, and they readily form part of an imaginative narrative that lets them feel like they are being risky even though their play is safe;  that they’re traversing a log jam across a rushing river for example.  Feel risky, play safe.  The ropes added to the log slice towers and the boulder mountain are also great…they allow a greater variety of children–those less skilled or less strong or simply less bold–to interact with these features in a greater variety of ways.

This is an excellent start to the Portland Nature-based Play Initiative, and I look forward to more.  Does your city have a play initiative?  Let me know about it!

[Images from Learning Landscapes and Greenworks SPC, who collaborated on the project].

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