Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mill Street Park Natural Playscape

We have been eyeing a new park just as you go over the overpass into Goshen on SR 15 for the last couple of months. I heard about it from a naturalist with Elkhart County Parks and her husband. It looks like they are still adding finishing touches; however, nothing was there asking us to not be there. The parking lot was open and it looked open for business.

I'm excited about this park! It's not too far from my grandparents' house, so we can stop by when we go visit. It seems to be using the Nature Explore type concept, with separate areas for different types of activities. At the entrance is a water area, called Bubbling Rocks. My 5-year-old is starting to read and sounded it all out. There are lots of rocks, obviously, and a water pump with wooden troughs for the water to flow. The water is turned off right now, yet this will be a fun place to experiment with water this summer.

Near the entrance, there is also a community garden and rain garden. I like that these are intentionally included, with spaces for people to grow food and other spaces diverting water to plants appropriate for the area. 

The terrain has little hills all over. This one has a small lookout! We've driven by Lookout Mountain many times. You can see the whole park from up here. There are several play areas around the park, with a path all the way around it. They are still working on a path through the park. It looks like the Pumpkin Vine winds nearby as well, so this would be a great place to stop while out bike riding. I know having a destination and/or a fun place to stop is helpful for my children while out exploring. 


There is a long slide set in the hill. To be honest, I was a little worried about my youngest with it; however, my older boys helped him go down the slide just fine. They kept going back for more so it must be fun! 

It looks like this is a nature art area, with tables and easels. I'm curious as to how this will be used and/or encouraged. Still, the easels are great "windows" for now. 

There are benches throughout to take a break and/or watch kids. There are also several low walls near the art area. I'm not sure if they are meant for climbing, but it was an open invitation for my youngest when he saw them.

On the nearby hills there are short "towers of imagination" as Mark Daniels from Art by Mark Daniels calls them. They are little forts with cool logs with notches for climbing. The youngest liked a little help, yet the other boys all climbed it fine. I can imagine what they will do with these open ended possibility towers--castles, ships, lookouts, and more! 

He likes it! He likes it! Notice how the wood slats around the outside alternate finished wood with sticks--love the details! Here is a view of the slide, so you can see that it's fairly steep. While steep for me, it was a perfect challenge for the kids! 

In the "Music Room" there are various musical instruments in the area. This is a good place to explore sound! 

I was sad to see what looked like vandalism on these drums already. I hope people help take care of places like this and make it so we can all use it rather than intentionally hurting things. 

There is a wooden sound box, it looks like it has holders for mallets, but we didn't find them there. There is also a metal sound wall to explore. 

This little hut is just fun! They will find and make uses for it! There is a cool climbing area as well with a rope type structure between the boulders. 

Great attention is noted in the details, like this trilobite stamped in the "rock". There are also swings nearby as well. My oldest didn't even notice these as he was too busy enjoying everything else! When debriefing over our experience in the van after our visit, he said the only thing it needed to make it better was swings! Yet, they are there! So it must be perfect. Another son thought there was too much space between each of the areas. We talked about how that may be part of the design to help encourage people to be fit and active. I'd say it works! It also leaves plenty of space for imaginative play. We drove by a "plastic" playground after and they unanimously agreed the natural playground was more fun. It leaves more options and creativity to explore, in my opinion. 

They were excited about this climbing wall--looks like fun and an appropriate risk to me! 

There were a couple of other structures in this climbing area. The one on the left reminds me of shimming up in a door jamb inside a house, but we weren't certain. The boys looked at this one with the holes on the right, yet we didn't quite come up with a plan for how to interact with it well--yet! 

It's a great space! The plans and timeline of the space from a brown well to a new park are detailed near the front entrance. It's great to see a transformation within a community that encourages time outside, creativity, nature play, physical fitness, family time, and more! 


We even saw a little bit of sunset as we left! Beautiful! We will return often! 

To see other natural play areas in the Michiana area, visit my blog post about natural playscapes here

In this play area, I saw equipment by Landscape Structures and Natural Playgrounds. Looks like good stuff! The websites also helped me understand how to use a few of the pieces a little better! We'll visit again knowing a little more on how to use it. :-)