Kalamazoo

Children turn out to romp as first phase of downtown Kalamazoo’s Nature Playscape opens

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Kalamazoo series.

Local youngsters helped swing open the gates to the Children’s Nature Playscape on Bronson Park as part of its grand opening on Friday, July 15. The event marks completion of the first phase of what will be one of the nation’s largest natural playscapes in an urban core.

Use of the Children’s Nature Playscape on Bronson Park is free to the public. It is designed to be inclusive and barrier free. Children and families of all abilities and backgrounds can come there to learn, grow and play together.

The playscape offers an accessible paved walkway, log benches for children, and artistic benches for adults. Native tall grass, shrubs, and other plants will border the site, which will also include play structures, turf, and a pondless stream. Signage will be inclusive and culturally appropriate.

Playscapes are nature-inspired landscapes where children ages 2-10 can engage in creative, unstructured play with natural elements in a park-like setting. Promoting use of natural areas by children helps reduce health disparities and builds environmental values in children as they grow to become future stewards of the Earth, says Jody Brylinsky, who chairs the planning Committee for the Children’s Nature Playscape. She notes that access to nature is a public health issue.

The grand opening marks the end of the first phase of the project at a cost of $1.2 million, with about $1 million raised so far. Initial funding came from First Congregational Church, making it possible to purchase the property and begin the planning phase.

Area foundations, nonprofit agencies and local donors provided additional support. Phase 2, estimated to cost about $600,000, will allow the Playscape to complete the natural setting with additional materials and final landscaping, including bringing in the native diversity of plants.
Bubbles helped create a festival atmosphere.
The Children’s Nature Playscape also is raising funds through a crowdfunding effort with a goal to raise $50,000 by July 24. If successful, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. will match that amount through its Public Spaces Community Places collaboration with the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan-based Patronicity. Details and a link to donate can be found here or here. Funds will go toward completing the first phase of the project.

Photos by Fran Dwight. See more of her work here.

ody Brylinsky, Chair of the Kalamazoo Children’s Nature Playscape Steering Committee, offers remarks at the grand opening of Children’s Nature Playscape at Bronson Park.Children waited for their turn inside the gates to the Children’s Nature Playscape at Bronson Park. . Kalamazoo David Anderson talks about the opening of Children’s Nature Playscape at Bronson Park. Native tall grass, shrubs and other plants will border the site. Sandy Bleisener, Principal at OCBA Landscape Architects, offers remarks at the grand opening of Children’s Nature Playscape at Bronson Park.The gates were sybolically secured by a red ribbon.Howard Tejchma, Moderator for First Congregational Church, offers remarks at the grand opening of Children’s Nature Playscape at Bronson Park. The church’s initial funding made it possible to purchase the property and begin the planning phase.The gates opened and the children were off to try out the new playscape.Checking out the water feature.Shoes came off so the children could go barefoot through the water. Checking out the wood.
Checking out the water feature.