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Health, Science, Environment

Forest Park Is Getting A New, $4.5M Natural Playground in 2020

A rendering of the "forest bottomlands," one of eight activity areas planned for the new Forest Park Nature Playscape.
Forest Park Forever
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A rendering of the bottomland forest, one of eight activity areas planned for the new Forest Park Nature Playscape.

Visitors to Forest Park will have a new, $4.5 million attraction to explore next year that aims to create a natural playground for families. Forest Park Forever hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at the site with St. Louis officials on Monday.

The project will transform 17 acres between the World’s Fair Pavilion and the Jewel Box into activity areas inspired by natural landscapes found in the region, including meadows, wetlands, springs, mounds and bottomlands. Kids will be able to wander boardwalks, play in water and climb rocks and trees at the Nature Playscape. 

The Nature Playscape will occupy 17 acres near the center of Forest Park, between the Jewel Box and the World's Fair Pavilion.
Credit Mapbox, OpenStreetMap
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The Nature Playscape will occupy 17 acres near the center of Forest Park, between the Jewel Box and the World's Fair Pavilion.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity with just this one innovative project to help new generations of kids live better, healthier lives engaging with nature,” said Lesley Hoffarth, president and executive director of Forest Park Forever. 

Forest Park Forever’s website said it wants the donor-funded attraction to “promote environmental stewardship among community members of all ages” and “engage children’s senses.” Architects and designers collaborated to conceptualize the space so that it will help children interact with nature. 

The site’s attractions will be connected by paths accessible to visitors using wheelchairs, strollers or mobility aids. 

To help cultivate the natural environments, the project will plant about 900 mostly native trees and shrubs, plus more than a hundred species of grasses and flowering plants.

Forest Park Forever hosted sessions where they asked kids what they wanted from the playscape. Hoffarth said they heard a common refrain: Kids want space to do cartwheels. So, the playscape will have a large, flat area in a clover field where kids can do just that. 

“We really have designed this space with kids, for kids,” Hoffarth said. “We’re excited to get this project started and have the kids come out and help us cut the ribbon on it when it’s done.”

20190715_playscape_provided_01.jpeg
Credit Forest Park Forever
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The eight activity areas in the Nature Playscape cover a part of the park that's currently maintained but not developed.

Follow Kae on Twitter: @kmaepetrin

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Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.