Fair Hill Na­ture Cen­ter playscape goes into win­ter mode

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

FAIR HILL

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.”

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

A tic-tac-toe game made from fallen logs at Fair Hill Na­ture Cen­ter is one of the var­i­ous play­ful el­e­ments of the playscape.

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