Fair Hill Nature Center playscape goes into winter mode
— Though winter is fast approaching, the outdoor playscape at Fair Hill Nature Center is still a popular stop, which is exactly what the creators of the natural playground envisioned.
“Every teacher that comes by comments on how great this is,” said Sarah Chambers, lead educator for the center, which is located inside the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area.
The collection of natural playground equipment is perfect for getting kids engaged and active, she noted.
Located near the historic stone building that doubles as the center’s headquarters and classrooms, the playscape was a joint project of the center, the Maryland Park Service, the Department of Natural Resources and the Elkton Kiwanis Club.
The idea for a natural playground was borne out of the Children in Nature movement, which encourages kids to get outside and play, said Chris Grieco, assistant park manager.
Using some lumber, but mostly wood from the surrounding forest, the playscape offers opportunities to jump, climb, slide and sit.
“All the stumps you see are all from trees that blew over at Fair
Hill,” Grieco said. “That’s the beauty of this type of project, it’s sourced on site from renewable materials.”
The playscape was built in March and officially opened Memorial Day weekend as part of the Maryland Park Quest program.
“And I made sure the slides were fast enough,” Grieco said, adding that he wished there was a way to make those from wood too. Instead, the slides are plastic.
According to Grieco, the playscape is a fun and natural way to learn about the value of the insects that make our food possible.
“It’s a butterfly theme that teaches the benefits of pollinators through general play,” Grieco said.
Although some of the elements such as the hummingbird feeders have been taken down until spring, the playscape remains open for education and enjoyment.
When the full playscape reopens in the spring, there could be new elements, Grieco hinted.
One important element in getting the playscape built was the partnership with the Kiwanis. That partnership started when members stopped by to drop off bluebird boxes and Grieco started talking with John Wallach, the vice president of the civic group, about a partnership, Grieco said. Around the same time, Grieco said he and Holly Hannum, former director of the nature center, had attended a seminar about playscapes and were hoping to start construction on one.
Through Wallach, the center obtained almost $ 5,000 in grant money as well as manpower for construction.
“Our club built the pollinator boxes and worked on the stage,” Wallach said.
Wallach said the Kiwanis look forward to being involved in more projects, not only at Fair Hill but at other areas of Cecil County and are always looking to be more involved.
“It’s been a good partnership,” Grieco added. “It’s always good to partner with organizations who see a goal and work together to achieve that goal.”
A tic-tac-toe game made from fallen logs at Fair Hill Nature Center is one of the various playful elements of the playscape.