Conservation Minnesota

Spotlight: A Place to Play

“…We have tended to see the most significant forms of nature as occurring somewhere else – often hundreds of miles away from where most people actually live – in national parks, national seashores, and wilderness areas” – Richard Louv, recipient of the 2008 Audubon Medal.

William Berry Playground

A computer generated image of The Treetops playground.

In this culture of always being “plugged in”, the time we actually spend outdoors is becoming less and less. With busy schedules for parents and children alike, kids don’t always have the same relationship with the outdoors that was common even 15 years ago.  The “do it faster” mentality has our nation addicted to electronics to support our chaotic schedules.

The good news is the Legacy Amendment funding continues to provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, even in the most urban of neighborhoods.  One of the projects funded by the Parks and Trails Fund of the Legacy Amendment is the Lake Harriet Regional Playgrounds project. The goal of the project is to “develop and construct accessible, safe and fun play environments within both regional park areas.”  Two parks are included in the project plan, William Berry Park and Beard’s Plaisance.  Both parks will be completed by spring of 2012.  Nestled along beautiful Lake Harriet in this convenient location, the playgrounds offer a safe environment for children to explore nature and their imaginations.

Preschool PlaygroundOne unique aspect to these designs is that they were crafted by children and for children.   The design for William Berry is broken up into two sections.  One section, The Treetops, is intended for school age kids and consists of a climbing wall, a separate climbing structure, a giant access net and more.  The other section, The Grove, is intended for preschool kids.  It consists of swings and smaller climbing structures. The playground at Beard’s Plaisance will be built next to the existing picnic shelter and will include three main play areas:  one for preschool kids, one for school age kids, and a swing zone.

Playgrounds built in nature like these are becoming less common in populated areas, which makes this Legacy project so unique and essential.  Not only is it important that children get outside but also that they have playtime outside, free of structure.  We need to ask ourselves, when our children look back at their childhood, will they remember family picnics or will they instead remember hours in front of a television?  The Lake Harriet Regional Playgrounds will be a great place for kids to play outside, and for families to enjoy the outdoors.  Lake Harriet has a rich history of being a family attraction, and the new playgrounds will only add to the appeal.

Families will gather on the morning of December 3rd at Lake Harriet not for the playground but for the Gold’s Gym 5K and 1K Reindeer Run.  The paths around Lake Harriet will be filled with all ages, many adorned in silly holiday costumes. The run is part of the upcoming Minneapolis Legacy Weekend, December 2nd-4th.  Other family friendly activities will include, a ranger guided hike and scavenger hunt at the Carl W. Kroening Interpretative Center Saturday at noon, a Morning with Tomte at the American Swedish Institute Saturday at 10am, performances of A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater and much more.  More information is available at

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