News / Edmonton

Edmonton kids to play in the dirt, and that's a good thing

The natural play structures will be located in Dermott District Park and Wilfred Laurier Park

City landscape architect Matt Sloan (left) and senior project manager Becky Redford are behind the designs of two new natural playgrounds coming to Edmonton.

Jeremy Simes / Metro

City landscape architect Matt Sloan (left) and senior project manager Becky Redford are behind the designs of two new natural playgrounds coming to Edmonton.

Edmonton kids better get ready to play in the dirt — in a good way. 

City of Edmonton planners have released updated designs on “natural play structures” that are proposed for Dermott District Park.

But there won’t be plastic in these structures. Instead, think of “group slings” — a wooden, hexagon structure with u-shaped ropes used for swinging — rock walls, and slides planted into hills.

The push for the natural playgrounds is twofold: Nearby communities want them and they help people of all ages develop relationships with the outside world, according to Matt Sloan, landscape architect with the city’s open space and planning design department.

“Being able to re-connect with the plants, the dirt, the boulders, and the stone is critical to re-engage people with the natural environment,” Sloan said.  

A look at the big hill slide in Dermott park.

Submitted / City of Edmonton

A look at the big hill slide in Dermott park.

“It’s to have that experience with nature that kids and adults maybe aren’t having these days.”

Along with Dermott District Park, another natural playground will be located in Wilfred Laurier Park.

Both are ideal spots because they are destinations for Edmontonians — not tiny neighbourhood parks only used by local community members, according to Martina Gardiner, the acting director of open space planning and design. 

“We wouldn’t want this type of intensity in a neighbourhood-level park,” Gardiner said. “We would potentially see one or two natural pieces for the smaller parks.”

So why get kids re-connecting with the dirt?

It helps them tap into their creativity, according to Sloan.

He said typical playgrounds are “hard-programmed,” where swings are built only for swinging and slides just for sliding.

That can get boring.

A look at the

Submitted / City of Edmonton

A look at the "group sling," which can act like typical swings.

“I think natural playgrounds have that ability to promote those creative opportunities,” he said. “For example, the boulder is a climbing feature one day, and a gathering place the next. It’s going to transition and change based on what you’re looking for that day.”

Construction on both natural playgrounds will begin in April 2017 and are anticipated to open in the summer of 2018. Planners will also have to report back to council on what kids think of the playgrounds 

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