2017 Merit Award
The Schaumburg Park District
The vision for Bison’s Bluff Nature Playground was born out of the Schaumburg Park District’s goal to enhance their existing facilities and the nature play opportunities available at the Spring Valley Nature Center. Through the nature center, the Park District hosts a wide variety of well-attended outdoor education programs.
To extend their programming and incorporate play and educate children of all ages about nature, a Hitchcock Design Group led design team developed this nature-based play space that immerses children in a natural landscape that includes native grasses and flowers, woodland trees, a stream and a pond.
The goal of the Bison Bluff Playground was to provide children of all ages and abilities with unique open-ended nature play opportunities which mimic traditional play in open spaces. Throughout the design of the project, community input and involvement was continuous. Community comments were tabulated and distributed to the design team which allowed for the design to be refined throughout the process, which ultimately helped to shape the design into three distinct naturals areas: the wetland, the prairie, and the savannah ecosystem.
In the wetland themed section, children can leap across stepping stones in a shallow pond, build dams and sort cobbles in a stream bed, participate in nature art, and hop across Sallie the Salamander. The prairie ecosystem provides children with the ability to explore the music of the prairie, look through the dragonfly kaleidoscope, play musical instruments, traverse the balance course, and take a ride on the seed spinners. In their visit to the savannah ecosystem, children can climb the “curious scurious raccoon rendezvous” multi-tiered treehouse, clamber over boulders, slide down the rodent run, and muscle up and over the Bison’s Bluff climbing zone.
Bison’s Bluff Nature Playground, by measurable standards, has been hugely successful as it had a simple goal of increasing visits to the Spring Valley Nature Center, thereby increasing the potential for land stewardship education. The project not only draws the expected original users, but polls indicate that people are now coming from the entire northwest suburban region and beyond.
Nova Engineering; McCluskey Engineering; Hey and Associates; Team Reil; Fountain Technologies
Products used in the Built Project: Landscape Structures (Playground Equipment); Freenotes Harmony Park (Playground Equipment)