The Warwick Valley Community Center has been busy designing a nature play area since late last summer. In August, after removing the outdated playground equipment and having several community meetings, the Center announced that the plan was to develop a nature play area to offer children opportunities to connect with nature. Nature play is an old concept but is becoming less prevalent with the increase in electronic play and children’s health issues.
Board members, Sharlene Miller-Pizza and Bill Steinauer; Chris Mansfield, founder of Embrace Design Group, an architectural visualization and design firm in Warwick; Richard Pillar, a local landscape architect; and Daniel Mack, consultant and local rustic furniture maker, have put the communities ideas on paper and are ready to get to work. The design includes many areas where children from ages two to 100 can dig, climb, build, pretend, reflect and just imagine.
The areas will include small and large loose parts (think natural tinker toys), an intermittent dry/moist stream running along the border with natural habitat, small bog gardens and water that will be furnished by the downspouts of the Center. There will be sound and sensory gardens for creative and imaginative play. Nesting areas will be accessible by exploring and wandering through the three-pine area. A palisade of tree trunks going back to Lenape Indians will lead to a contemplative storytelling area under a mature dogwood tree.
The already existing community orchard on top of the hill will be the finish line to an adventurous sloped walkway with stone overlooks and a slide leading back down to the area. There will also be areas where children can “paint” murals, dig in a large sand pile and be the main attraction on a stage that will also serve as an Adirondack lean-to.
The Center is working closely with the Village of Warwick, the Bellvale Community and local parent groups in Warwick to develop a cooperative “Warwick Play Trail” branding Warwick as a place to visit to experience several different kinds of play for children. This design is the beginning to what will be a phase-based project and will continue to grow over time with the addition of future outdoor education activities but it needs the community’s help.
There are many ways to get involved in this project. To volunteer, make a monetary donation or suggest a name for the playground, send an email to Sharlene at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.wvcommunitycenter.org.