Forest Park’s new natural play landscape attracts the curious

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In the past two years, an area of ​​Forest Park the size of over 15 football fields has been transformed into Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape. It opened to the public earlier this week, sporting a colorful array of native and diverse plant species – and curious play elements made from everything from limestone to willow branches.

“It’s such a fun and unique space for the kids in our town to explore a more natural environment – away from screens, thank goodness,” said St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, laughing at the cup. of ribbon Tuesday, “and awaken their senses.” while taking in some fresh air.

Evie Hemphill / Saint-Louis Public Radio

“Look around,” reads an interpretive sign along a trail in Forest Park’s new natural play landscape near the World’s Fair pavilion. Each panel is the work of a different class of students from the local elementary school.

Planning for the site was a long and in-depth process, and gathering the children’s views was a big part of it, said Ellie Stevens, education coordinator for Forest Park Forever. Saint Louis on the air.

“In my mind, there’s no more important part of the design team than the kids who gave us ideas for this space, and I love that you can connect the dots of an idea. that a kid brought us to the actual items that you have on hand, ”she said on Friday’s show.

“We engaged around 400 children through 19 different engagement activities that took place in late 2018 and through 2019.… We worked with children representing immigrant families, city residents, we got together. connected with people in the county, we spoke to kids with needs – they all have their imprint on what you see in the play landscape because they brought us these wonderful and inspiring ideas on what would make them fun to play outside.

Another goal was to ensure that the play landscape “aroused the natural curiosity and joy that we all carry with us,” Stevens said.

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Evie Hemphill / Saint-Louis Public Radio

Ellie Stevens (left) and Roman Fox joined Friday’s “St. Louis on the Air” show.

“[We want] let everyone feel welcome and be able to access this space, ”she said.

That vision is now a reality, and the park’s horticultural team have been particularly busy in recent months bringing its acres of vibrant flora to life.

“Before construction, this was a strewn area of ​​mature trees and just grass that needed to be mowed regularly,” said Roman Fox, horticultural superintendent for Forest Park Forever. “The space has a gentle topography that descends somewhat to an existing wooded area. … Turning him into what he is now was a real undertaking.

He noted that the main idea is that “someone can come here and just explore and think outside the box and find something new. … His [bringing to an urban environment] the things that as a kid growing up in a rural or suburban setting you end up doing in your backyard.

All additions to the site are from native plantings, Fox said.

Inside the Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape

Listen to host Sarah Fenske talk to representatives from Forest Park Forever and make a quick trip to Forest Park’s newest gem.

“Each play area has an ecological theme, and the paintings are associated with them,” he explained. “So you will go to areas that you might see in the Ozark glades and limestone rock outcrops, and then you will see things that are maybe elements of meadows and meadows that you would see in different parts.” of the State. “

Ann Ruger, a St. Louis County resident, who volunteers with Forest Park Forever, walked the playground for the first time on Tuesday.

“I’m very, very excited about this,” Ruger said. “I’ve been watching her evolve for two years. … What I like most is that this is a place where children can play freely, not toys designed by adults so that they can browse through them at the prescribed pace.

She added, “I am the grandmother of seven children, and I can imagine my husband and I bringing our chairs and sitting by the edge of one of those bodies of water and watching the children turn on the pumps and go up. and descend rocks and waves. for us because they do exciting things, and we can just enjoy them on the sidelines.

Seven-year-old Sylvia Horning was also excited, sharing her thoughts between hikes along horizontally placed tree trunks.

“Go on the logs and balance on the small boulders – I also like going on the rocks. I also claim that sand is quicksand.

Saint Louis on the air”Brings you the stories of Saint-Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah fenske and produced by Alex heuer, Emily woodbury, Evie hemphill and Lara hamdan. The sound engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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