Good things can result from unfortunate events, and one example of this is the new playground being built at Woodcock Nature Center. Last year, when a storm felled a tree it landed on the playground fence, thus opening the door for an upgrade.
The fence was repaired, thanks to the generosity of Pete Campbell of Horseshoe Farm, and most of the playground was dismantled. What was saved was the signature climbing spiderweb and the top of the slide, now being temporarily used as a playhouse.
While the previous playground was more traditional in nature, Woodcock wanted to go in a more natural direction with its new space, executive director Lenore Herbst told The Bulletin. Christopher Gray of Graywoods Design, which specializes in natural play structures for children, was brought on board to help realize the concept.
“He went on a hike with [educator] Sam Nunes and [director of education] Sarah Brezen to see what available materials they could use,” Herbst said. The result was large pieces of red cedar that were used to build a three-tiered platform children could climb up to via a short ladder. In the future, they will also be able to access it from the spiderweb.
“We wanted it to fit into the landscape,” Herbst said of the playground. “We want to encourage kids to engage with nature.” Kids being kids, “it is so natural and organic they just jump in and then go exploring.”
The platform is actually phase one of the playground plan, funded by two donors, and now the nature center is raising money for the next phase. That will focus on acquiring a 14-foot wobbly bridge and a stainless steel slide. Also in the plans are:

  • A playhouse with open half-walls.

  • Barefoot sensory path.

  • Musical flowers.

  • Curved balance beem and tree stump hop.

  • Sandbox enclosed with logs.

This is the only playground of its type in Wilton or Ridgefield, Herbst said, and there will be an emphasis on sensory elements to make it more accessible. The barefoot path will consist of different textures and the musical flowers will enhance aural engagement.
The playground is expected to appeal to children ages 3 to 9, and will be available to those enrolled in Woodcock programs as well as the general community.
When the playground is complete, Trassig, a commercial playground company based in Georgetown, has offered a pro bono service to ensure it meets all safety requirements.
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