Facility Profile - October 2009
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A Greener Place to Play

Crowley Park/Emerson Elementary School in La Crosse, Wis.

Adjacent to the rain garden, but away from the play area, Amunson positioned a gazebo that would serve several purposes. "The open gazebo we created is approximately 20 feet in diameter, with interior benches around the perimeter," Amunson said. "We wanted to supply a quiet place where the school could hold outdoor classrooms during the day, and the neighborhood could host get-togethers in the evenings and on weekends."

As Amunson worked on the landscape, Carlyon, Siegel and Gerber Leisure Products produced the final playground design. They selected a tan and green color palette, which enabled the play area to blend in with the environment. Shade systems were incorporated to protect children from the sun, and recycled rubber surfacing was selected for its superior fall protection and environmental profile. The students selected a towering climber, the top of which gives them a beautiful view of the entire park. Two of Siegel's favorite independent play events were the rugged amd natural-looking climbing rocks, constructed of glass fiber reinforced concrete.

"It was important for us to reinforce the natural setting of our playground, and these two climbers do a great job of that," Siegel said. "They mimic the look and feel of the nearby bluffs and provided really fun climbing experiences for the children."

Moreover, the entire playsystem is laid out in a linear fashion that allows children to treat play events like parts of an obstacle course. This design gets the kids moving and using their upper-body strength and agility to move throughout the structure.

As a final touch, the playground designers put in place a sign that brings home the message of environmental stewardship that governed the entire design of the park. This sign commemorates the fact that Landscape Structures offsets its production of CO2 by planting trees through the American Forests' Global ReLeaf program. Teachers use this sign to educate students about greenhouse gas production and the role that trees play in removing CO2 from our atmosphere.

The reaction to the new Crowley Park has been universally positive. After many years of dealing with splinters and bruises, students now have a playground that helps keep them fit and safe. In addition, the school staff now has an entirely new outdoor resource that they can use as an extension of the classroom. And perhaps most importantly, the city and the neighborhood now have a park that meets the needs of all citizens. According to Carlyon, the entire neighborhood now feels different.

"The biggest impact of this park can be seen in the evening when the park is still crowded with families and kids," Carlyon said. "This park is probably one of the most highly utilized parks in the community, and there is a great sense of neighborhood pride. There used to be eight or nine homes for sale around this park, but I don't think there are any for sale now. New families, younger families are coming in, and the older population now has a place to congregate and walk. It has brought everyone together. And now we see that other neighborhoods want the same thing. We did a recent survey about a project we have in the Black River Beach area in an older part of town and over 75 percent of the people we surveyed said that they wanted their project built green, too. There's no turning back now; I think this will be the way it is in La Crosse, Wisconsin, for a long time to come."


City of La Crosse Parks & Recreation:

Landscape Structures Inc.: www.playlsi.com