April 6th, 2023

Two children sitting on the white cedar logs in their snow gear in the new naturalized playscape at GreenUP Ecology Park.

The new naturalized playscape at GreenUP’s Ecology Park, which features two climbing features and a puppet theatre constructed of locally sources white cedar logs, is open to everyone in all seasons. (Photo: Clara Blakelock)

By: Lili Paradi, Communications Manager, GreenUP

“The work that GreenUP is doing in association with the City of Peterborough inspires me and is bringing something truly special to the community. The vision and approach that they took to this playground is advanced and a strong reflection of the important values they hold. I hope to see more of these types of playgrounds implemented by others.” – Tyler Main, Senior Landscape Architect, Henry Kortekaas & Associates Inc.

Ecology Park is proud to now host the first naturalized playscape on public land in the City of Peterborough. The re-imagination and restoration of the Children’s Garden means that the GreenUP facility now hosts two “log jam” climbing features and a puppet theatre.

The Naturalized Playscape is the fourth project to be completed in GreenUP’s capital fundraising campaign. This project compliments the outdoor education shelter and classroom floor, accessible pathway, and accessible washroom.

With the generous support of GreenUP donors and a grant of $52,800 that was awarded by the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Trillium Foundation in 2021, GreenUP is proud to have completed this project.

GreenUP welcomed members of the community and MPP Dave Smith to celebrate the Naturalized Playscape with a ribbon cutting on March 31st. GreenUP looks forward to generations of young environmental enthusiasts joining us in Ecology Park to learn and play. 

A naturalized playscape is one way to introduce children and those willing to unleash their playfulness to natural play in an urban landscape.

Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, inspired a movement across North America to bridge the gap between children and the outdoors. Natural play, Louv says, is the key to bringing about improvements to childhood growth and development, mental health, connection to community and even their physical health.

Cedar logs are used to create a balancing structure at Ecology Park’s new naturalized playscape.

Cedar logs are used to create a balancing structure at Ecology Park’s new naturalized playscape. A puppet theatre is seen in the background. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

Local contractors, The Little Building Company, won a bid to complete construction on the Naturalized Playscape.

Upon completion of the project, builder and owner of the Little Building Company, Sean Harris says, “It was a privilege to create a unique playground with a more natural feel, resembling a collection of fallen trees one might find in the woods… I hope that when children play on this natural playscape, they feel a stronger connection to their natural surroundings, and are given the opportunity to learn and engage in unstructured, imaginative play.”

Harris also speaks to the impact that choosing natural construction materials can have when undertaking a project like this one.

“When I look at the playscape, I see not only a fun space for children to play and learn, but also an environmentally responsible play area with low embodied carbon cost and no landfill waste at the end of its lifetime,” he says. “I hope the Naturalized Playscape inspires others to pursue similar projects that prioritize sustainability and environmental awareness.”

The Little Building Company combined conventional play structure elements and modern sustainable design into the Naturalized Playscape.

GreenUP executive director Tegan Moss cuts the ribbon to signify the opening of the Peterborough’s first naturalized playscape on public grounds at Ecology Park on March 31, 2023, to the excitement of the many children eager to try the playscape. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

GreenUP executive director Tegan Moss cuts the ribbon to signify the opening of the Peterborough’s first naturalized playscape on public grounds at Ecology Park on March 31, 2023, to the excitement of the many children eager to try the playscape. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

“The soft texture and irregularities of the locally sourced white cedar offer a refreshing change from the familiar plastic and metal surfaces of conventional playscapes,” he says.

“The project with GreenUP inspired [us] to reconnect with our natural building roots and continue reducing our environmental footprint.”

Well-designed playgrounds are an attraction for families using neighborhood and community parks such as in Ecology Park. Naturalization adds visual interest, some shade, biodiversity and comfort. This results in sustained repeat visits, a relaxed and playful social atmosphere, and growth of community social capital.

Tyler Main of Henry Kortekaas & Associates Inc was the architect of the Naturalized Playscape. He reinforced the benefits to the design of the playscape.

“It allows for a much more creative and natural play experience. Each user can view and use the features in their own way. They are able to tailor the experience to their skill and comfort level. It offers a much more sustainable play environment, using all natural materials, some of which are salvaged or recycled,” Main says.

The playscape provides opportunities for nature-based professionals like environmental educators and naturalists to offer rich outdoor education and recreation programs to children. This summer, the playscape will form a component of GreenUP’s Earth Adventures Camps.

GreenUP executive director Tegan Moss with donors and supporters Kim Zippel and Sue Sauve and Ian Attridge and Mark Zippel in the naturalized playscape’s puppet theatre at Ecology Park during an opening celebration on March 31, 2023. The natural playscape was also funded by a $52,800 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

GreenUP executive director Tegan Moss (right) with donors and supporters Kim Zippel and Sue Sauve (front) and Ian Attridge and Mark Zippel (back) in the naturalized playscape’s puppet theatre at Ecology Park during an opening celebration on March 31, 2023. The natural playscape was also funded by a $52,800 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

Karen O’Krafka, Program Coordinator at GreenUP, leads school groups and camp registrants in educational programming at Ecology Park. O’Krafka says that these programs “have goals of inspiring love for the natural world, deepening our understanding of our interconnectedness with all our relations, and engendering a sense of youth agency through action.”

“I am excited to see unstructured play on a naturalized playscape woven through our programming. It fosters essential skills like independence, healthy risk taking, creativity and collaboration. The synergy of these skills inspires connection and empathy for the natural world and for each other,” says O’Krafka.

This spring, the Ecology Park team looks forward to continuing to cultivate the sensory garden and edible plants that are a cherished part of the Children’s Garden. As the landscape recovers from construction, edible plants, wildflowers, grasses and native plant will again surround the playscape.

 Rain, snow, muck, or shine, the playscape is open to all in all seasons. We hope that you and your family and friends enjoy the trek along the TransCanada trail and into the 5-acre urban oasis that is Ecology Park. We hope you and your family enjoy the newly built playscape for many years yet to come.