Now that the cold weather and dreary days are behind us, your family can finally get outside and visit your favorite spots around Forest Park. This summer, you can add a new must-do to the top of your bucket list when the Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape opens in Forest Park to little adventurers ready for an outdoor experience like no other.
Over the past two years, Forest Park Forever and the City of St. Louis Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry have transformed 17 acres of turfgrass into an experiential play space with natural landscapes that feature native and diverse species. Along with design, architecture, urban planning, and landscape architecture experts, the collaborative team relied on input from child development and play specialists – as well as kids themselves – to create an immersive learning experience that ignites a child’s love of play and discovery.
The Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape enables visitors to connect with nature and engage their senses. Nine distinct activity areas, including a Sensory Garden, Spring, Meadow, Mounds, and Wetland, are connected by a series of paths and boardwalks that give every child the opportunity to explore the great outdoors. There is also a tot-friendly area for the smallest visitors.
To make the journey easier for families, kid-friendly interpretive signs were created by elementary students from Biome School. Bryan Hill Elementary, Rockwood Center for Creative Learning, and Sacred Heart Villa.
The opening of the Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape in Forest Park couldn’t come at a better time. After months of staring at screens and out the window due to the pandemic, kids can let their big imaginations run wild (and burn off some very pent-up energy) in a natural wonderland designed just for them.
"We’ve heard for more than a year how vital green spaces like Forest Park have been to families and their well-being,” said Steve Schenkenberg, Vice President of Communications & Marketing for Forest Park Forever. “The Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape will offer kids and their caregivers an entirely new place to explore and have fun in nature. Whether scrambling over logs and boulders, getting in touch with their senses in the Sensory Garden, or learning about native plants and species, kids will be forging connections to nature that can last a lifetime.”
A biodiverse play space that cultivates learning for visitors of all ages
To bring the Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape to fruition, the $5 million project incorporated sustainable practices into its design and populated the 17-acre play space with diverse species of vegetation. The team planted 300 trees, 700 shrubs and 40,000 perennials, used 1,500 tons of boulders and rocks, including Missouri limestone, and built more than 300 benches from fallen or hazard trees.
But what you won’t find are the plastic materials and manufactured equipment of traditional playgrounds. Instead, kids experience the same joy of play, but enjoy a greater sense of discovery and a direct connection to the natural world around them.
Explained Schenkenberg, “Today’s kids often have limited opportunities to experience and benefit from nature. Research has shown that children who spend time playing in nature can be healthier, happier and smarter. When outdoors in places like the new Nature Playscape, kids become active, curious, hands-on learners. We are thrilled that the new Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape will help new generations of kids benefit from nature in long-lasting ways.”
The Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape is located in the heart of Forest Park near the World’s Fair Pavilion. Play hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day starting June 2. To learn more about the play space and to map out your family’s adventure, visit www.forestparkforever.org/playscape.
Photos courtesy of Forest Park Forever
Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL
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