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Old Posted Mar 6, 2010, 1:08 AM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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One-of-a-kind playground to sprout at Shelby Farms
the Commercial Appeal | By Tom Charlier

A 4-year-old delivered the welcoming remarks. A television news anchor read from Dr. Seuss. But if the groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday was unconventional, so was the project it commemorated. The Woodland Discovery Playground at Shelby Farms Park, after all, is designed to shatter the traditional monkey-bars-and-swing-set mold. Part of a $3.5 million project, the playground will include an eclectic mix of features drawn from international research on "natural play," which encourages youngsters to be adventurous, creative, active and engaged. "We looked at playgrounds around the world," said Laura Adams, deputy director of Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, which operates the 4,500-acre park. "... We looked everywhere. We put it all together for the best imaginings we could come up with." The resulting design, by the firm field operations, centers on a serpentine, 1.5-mile-long willow arbor tunnel that opens into numerous rooms for play and wraps around several "nests" offering varying levels of activity. The playground, funded largely through a donation from the Plough Foundation, will be an "incredible asset" when it's completed late this fall, said interim county Mayor Joe Ford. Plough chairwoman Diane Rudner credited the efforts of local leaders over the past half-century to protect Shelby Farms from development proposals. And Barbara Hyde, who is chairwoman of the committee overseeing the master plan for Shelby Farms, said the playground will help create "the next great American park of the 21st century." A related project will restore the forested acreage adjacent to the playground. With the playground, Shelby Farms is embarking on an expansive scheme of improvements to be funded through a $75 million capital campaign. The improvements include a major expansion of Patriot Lake, a boathouse and amphitheater, a pedestrian bridge over the Wolf River, a water park, another playground, a cypress wetland area and the planting of 1million trees.
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