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Playscape Enhancements in 2024

By Deb Schoelerman

As part of our mission and vision UUS has striven to be a place where families with children can find connection and joy in nature and in play.  Funds from the Jean Reese Endowment Fund will pay for these playscape enhancements this spring and summer.  These enhancements will be enjoyed by the participants in the Nature Camps that Nic Kaplan, DLRE, organizes and leads.  

In 2021 funds from the Jean Reese were used to add limestone steps to the “active play area” at the base of the boulder scramble.  This is the area that would be the focus of our continued improvements.  

The projects below will improve and enhance our outdoor area. 

  1. The addition of more boulders at the top of the current boulder scramble will eliminate the muddy area at the top near the sidewalk.  An area about half down the hill will be leveled and boulders added to create a “gravel pad” where the slide will be installed. 
  2. Picnic tables in the shade of the oak tree will be beneficial for lunches and other activities that need a table for both RE participants and campers.  The removal of the brush and flattening of the area around the tree will also increase the area accessible by line-of-sight, which in turn will allow for more of our space to be utilized in ways compliant with our safer congregation policies.
  3. The addition of boulders in the slope above the picnic tables will give more visual interest and protection to an area where children are regularly using during child-led exploration.
  4. On the south side of the building a wildlife container pond will allow children and adults alike to observe and marvel at native water plants that will attract a variety of amphibians, birds, and mammals.
  5. Also, on the south side of the building, a “mud kitchen” will allow for both dramatic play and exploration of one of our world’s most important natural resources – soil.  The mud kitchen will preserve landscaping from naturally curious children who want to dig and play in mud and dirt, giving them an outlet for those tendencies.
  6. The pergola added to the gravel area across from the RE gardens will allow for a clearer spot for drop off in the mornings during Nature Camps.  We also envision using this space during the year for drink stations and a clearly defined place to gather.

The Land Ministry Team and Nic Kaplan, DLRE, see playscape enhancement as an important goal that capitalizes on the unique opportunities we have to honor and celebrate the earth and to nurture deep connections not only within our own congregation, but also in the wider community.  We anticipate that the camps will continue to attract new families to our congregation.  As a team we will continue to work with many volunteers to enhance and maintain our landscaping and wild areas.  We believe that when these projects are completed, the labyrinth, the playscape, and the memorial garden will provide a unified look and will help to beautify and complement our outdoor spaces on the south side of the building.

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