The Village of Williamsville on Wednesday, Aug. 28, officially introduced to the community Nature Play at Glen Park, a newly-created outdoor space to engage children and families within the serene setting of the park.
Nature Play is located on the park’s northwestern edge near Noll Nature Center off Glen Avenue.
The space, which includes a unique amphitheater, is constructed of a variety of all-natural materials, such as large tree limbs, rocks and wood. The space will serve as a gathering place for the community to learn about the special ecological features within the park and village and for children to use their imaginations among nature.
Construction of Nature Play was pioneered by the village’s Department of Public Works. The department’s crew chief, Ben Vilonen, designed the space following input from community stakeholders and a steering committee.
“Anyone can use the space to climb, crawl or relax,” Vilonen said. “We had to make the space out of natural materials, so everything had to be pieced together on-site to create what you see. There was no manual or instructions for assembly.”
In addition to the amphitheater, Nature Play at Glen Park features include a balance beam log, trees and boulders for climbing, and tables and chairs created from logs and stumps.
Village Mayor Deb Rogers said she is proud to present the space to the community following the hard work of the Department of Public Works and the dedication of everyone involved in the process.
“Our DPW crew did a fantastic job putting it all together,” she said.
Plans for Nature Play at Glen Park were initiated in 2017 when Rogers was a village board trustee.
“Village resident Dave Bauer called and asked to meet and discuss an idea he had,” Rogers said. “He presented the idea of creating a nature play area somewhere in the village. As trustee, one of my roles was liaison to the Glen Park Join Board. Nature play appeared to be the perfect companion for the already passive atmosphere at Glen Park.”
Bauer, an environmental science teacher as well as a sustainability and environmental consultant, said that when he discovered Rogers’ enthusiasm for exploring how the community might be able to use part of Glen Park as a one-of-a-kind play setting.
He added that research conducted by the Natural Learning Institute shows that unstructured nature play benefits children in several ways, including supporting their creativity, enhancing their cognitive abilities, improving their eyesight and physical activity.
“My love for children combined with what I was discovering about children loving the enjoyment of nature helped me vision novel ways to use our local spaces as nature play sites,” Bauer said.
After discussing his ideas with Rogers, she and Bauer teamed with a group of advocates to create the steering committee that was tasked with further developing the project.
“The vision for this project is to bring families and younger children into a natural setting and invite unstructured nature play,” Bauer said. “What’s so amazing is how simple, easy and inviting the effort can be. Let the kids lead. Children remind us of the joys of sharing time in nature.”
Rogers added that she would like to continue to incorporating features into Nature Play at Glen Park, possibly by planting willow trees and erecting an entrance sign.
“Although Glen Park offers so much natural beauty, it was missing an interactive piece that families and children seek while visiting any park,” she said. “My hope is that this play space will prompt visitors of all ages to put down their electronic devices and use their creativity and imagination in the outdoors.”