Recreation Management - Ideas and Solutions for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

June 2016


Destination Play Comes to Draper, Utah

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By David Mumpower

Developing a destination playground requires a combination of imagination and ingenuity. That's why Wheadon Farm Park in Draper, Utah, deserves special credit. This recent project took a century-old piece of land and rebuilt it into a popular park featuring vestiges of American culture. Equal parts restoration and new creation, Wheadon Farm Park hearkens back to the final days of pioneer life while offering all the modern amenities parents and kids expect from a playground.

Starting in the early 1900s, the Gene and Dean Wheadon Farm serviced the surrounding Utah area. When their farming days ended at Wheadon Farm, the family chose to donate the land to Utah Open Lands, an organization dedicated to preserving the heritage of such remnants of Utah history.

Given the opportunity to develop a unique parcel of land, Salt Lake County purchased the 64-acre property and settled on repurposing it as a family-friendly park celebrating the traditions of life on the farm. They hired the team at Cre8Play to evaluate the pieces in place, identifying which ones fit the motif of early 20th century farm. The company lovingly renovated those items to make them child-safe and engaging.

After almost two decades without use, Wheadon Farm Park returned earlier this year. It now features a modern take on some of the rustic themes of farm life. When families reach the playground, their first sight is of a classic farmhouse. The difference is that no home from the time period included adjoining slides on each side that cascade from the top of the dwelling to the ground. It's an incongruous yet unforgettable visual that quickly sets the tone for a visit to the park.

Perhaps the most innovative renovation is the Massey-Harris Model 101 tractor that kids can mount. While the vehicle no longer moves, kids can sit behind the wheel and dream about plowing the back 40 in their shiny red tractor. It's the perfect melding of fun and imagination with fueling a child's desire to learn about American history.

Other authentic touches include a pair of hay-bale benches that look like the real thing but lack all the scratching and sneezing that is regularly associated with hay. A similar accoutrement is the replica of a hay derrick tire swing attached to a wood frame. Rustic realism drives all the features such as these at the park.

The barn itself offers rock climbing on the side wall. To accentuate the setting, farm noises punctuate many of the activities. The various play areas combine the farm setting with a convivial atmosphere and a theme of inclusiveness. The Wheadon Farm Park is wheelchair-accessible to ensure that everyone gets to pretend to be a farmer for the day.