Feature Article - November 2005
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Destination: Landscape

Nurturing visitor interest through creative park design

By Kelli Anderson

A-maze-ing Landscapes

Mazes are a perennial favorite of landscape attractions, dating back to ancient times. Although few park districts and recreational sites could boast mazes of the caliber of Hampton Court in London, created for Henry VIII's amusement, many in the United States are finding that whether made of cornfields or woody shrubbery, mazes still hold a fascination for people of all ages.

"Mazes attract all age groups," says Peggy Pelkonen, assistant landscape architect of Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill., of her recent research of mazes in the United States and Europe. "They interest 8-year-old boys and girls as well as that hard-to-reach teenager demographic and grandmas and grandpas."

Morton Arboretum has enjoyed a wide variety of interest in its newly opened shrubbery maze which, unlike traditional mazes, offers clues to each of its seven "rooms" instead of a design intended to reach one central point. Each "room" of the maze highlights a particular species of plant while participants work through the clues of the maze structure. Highlights include a lookout point over which the entire one-acre maze can be viewed.

Although the maze will take about five years to mature, some mazes take only a few months to reach their full potential. Corn mazes are another seasonal favorite growing in popularity in agricultural regions.

At Cherry Crest Farms in Paradise, Pa., a corn maze—dubbed an Amazing Maize Maze—is the star attraction. Patterned designs, which change every year depending on the theme, are part of an entire "agri-tainment" enterprise, which has spawned corn mazes around the country created by companies like the American Maze Company ("Getting People Lost Since 1993") and Adrian Fisher Maze Design (with six Guiness Book world records).

Although mazes of this quality—some taking hours to navigate and boasting award-winning designs by the likes of English maze designer Adrian Fisher—towns and park districts are not beyond trying their hands at the amazing attraction of mazes.

Park districts, like the one overseeing Mill Creek Metro Parks in Canfield, Ohio, can offer their own simpler versions of corn mazes, along with hayrides, campfire activities and special events every fall season as part of their autumnal programs.

For more information on mazes and creative maze designs, visit www.americanmaze.com and www.mazemaker.com.