Community Gardens

Welcome back to another blog post! Last week we did a deep dive into pocket parks (read it here). The pocket park post was particularly relevant because they are a great way to begin adding parks and public green space into our own community! This week we wanted to play on that theme and talk about community gardens. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of adding more community gardens could have in Columbia Valley.

Benefits of Community Gardens

One of the most obvious benefits of community gardens is the access to fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have ever had homegrown fruits and vegetables, you know the quality and flavor is far superior to what you bring home from the grocery store. Gardening in the community setting also promotes a healthy lifestyle while giving the opportunity to connect with friends and neighbors.  Tending to your community garden plot will undoubtedly give access to your daily dose of fresh air. Gardening in the community offers the healthy lifestyle benefits of fresh air and exercise. As you tend your plot in the community garden you are also gaining a sense of ownership in your community and building positive relationships with neighbors. Finally, there is also a huge educational opportunity in community gardens both for children and adults. With current fast-paced lifestyles we often don’t get the opportunity to learn where our food comes from in person. Community gardening also helps you gain new skills and learn about natural processes while you learn the skills to grow your own food.

Image Credits from left: City of Bonney Lake, City of Clearwater, City of Eugene.

Community Gardens in Columbia Valley

As you may or may not know, Columbia Valley already has one community garden at the EWRCC near the Food Bank. The existing community garden is located off Kendall Road next to the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center and the Foothills Food Bank. Now it may seem unnecessary or redundant to have more than one community garden in the area,  Jessica Bee (CVPRD’s Chair Commissioner) has mentioned that often the garden plots will fill up and availability becomes an issue. Another thing to consider is that many people appreciate having a community garden within walking distance of their home as it offers easier and more opportunities for spending time in the garden. 

Community Gardens are such a great way to get outside and strengthen your community, why not increase access and availability of them in Columbia Valley? We can also get creative with the placement of community gardens. For example, if there is a homeowner that is willing to use their front lawn for garden space, that homeowner could designate some of that space for public use. This is known as a lawn share program. Of course, a kind of negotiation could occur where a percentage of produce grown is given to the lawn owner as a form of payment.

Overall, there are many different ways to bring more community green space to Columbia Valley, and community gardens would bring more access to fresh produce while also strengthening the community. To learn more about community gardens visit the links below in the Additional Resources section.

Image Credits from left: Urban Harvest, Tampa Bay Times, Helena Community Gardens.

Additional Resources

What Is a Community Garden – Benefits & How to Start Your Own

A Front Yard Becomes A Community Garden

Types of Community Gardens

The Many Benefits of Community Gardens
Community Gardens – Healthy Foods – CDC (Includes links to detailed case studies) 

Pocket Parks

Welcome back to another innovative park design spotlight! Over the last few weeks, we’ve covered different kinds of innovative playgrounds, that have been geared exclusively towards children and families. However, parks are a place for everyone. Today, we’re going to be looking at an innovative park design that is geared towards everyone in a community – pocket parks!

Pocket parks are a great way to turn vacant land into public green space. They are specifically designed to encompass a small area. Pocket parks can be designed to fit the community where it resides. Some of the most famous examples of pocket parks are often found in larger urban environments, as a way to break up the city and incorporate more public green space. This has shown to greatly improve the quality of life for surrounding residents. The following slideshow highlights two famous urban pocket parks. Both are in Manhattan, NYC and are known as Paley Park and Greenacre Park.

Paley Park

Image credits, from left: Sampo Silko via Flickr, Mike Boucher via Flickr, Mike Boucher via Flickr.

Greenacre Park

Image credits: The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Pocket Parks in Columbia Valley

While pocket parks are often seen in dense urban landscapes, this kind of park design could work well for incorporating more green public space in Columbia Valley. Plus, if a small vacant plot of land becomes available a pocket park would be a relatively cost-effective solution! Another great thing about pocket parks is that because of their small size, planning and executing a park plan can be less intimidating for a first park. Pocket parks are also a perfect opportunity for lots of community input and volunteer work. One example of a pocket park in Columbia Valley could consist of planting native vegetation, installer pavers for a small path, and possibly including some benches. Another fun possibility that Columbia Valley residents may enjoy is a wildflower garden! Not only are wildflowers enjoyable to look at, but they often promote healthy pollinators!

Chippendale Park – Sydney, Australia
Image Credit: Newton Grafitti via Flickr
Boyd Jackson Park – Takoma Park, Maryland
Image Credit: Google Street View
St. Anne’s Road Pocket Park 
Image Credit: Shubham Sotwal via Google Maps Images

It’s also important to point out that there are lots of resources and toolkits available online that help guide communities to planning their own pocket park. These resources include ideas for the park design, budgeting, where to look for funding, and some even include case studies! These toolkits will be linked below under the additional resources. 

Additional Resources

Trust for Public Land Pocket Park Toolkit

National Recreation and Park Association Mini-Park Toolkit

Toolkit for Community Participation in Pocket Parks

Nature-based Park Design

Welcome to another innovative park design spotlight post! This week we’re going to be taking a deeper look into some nature integrated park design. These parks focus on using natural elements, such as trees, dirt, rocks, and water, to encourage creativity and exercise of gross motor skills in children. To understand what a natural playground looks like we’ll be looking at some different examples from around the world.

WILD PLAY Garden in Sydney, Australia

WILD PLAY Garden was opened in 2017 and covers approximately 70,000 sq. ft., it is a truly massive natural playground. The Park was designed to accommodate children between the ages of 2 and 12 and mostly consists of trails surrounded by densely planted trees and shrubs. There are approximately 12,700 trees, shrubs, grasses, and succulents planted in the park. The designers of the playground also paid special attention to making sure that the vegetation was native to Sydney, which is a great practice to integrate anywhere! Other unique elements added to this park include balancing structures made of wood, splash pads, and rock creek beds. Below are some photos from WILD PLAY and a quote from the park designers. 

WILD PLAY in Sydney, Australia

“Kids like discovery, challenges, movement and adventure. They thrive on being in nature – playing with water, climbing trees, jumping through puddles, hiding in trees. We know this instinctively as parents, and as designers we build these observations into our work.” 

Sacha Coles, ASPECT Studios Director

Royal Park Nature Playground in Melbourne, Australia

This nature-based play space has elements that are generally geared to slightly older children than the previous park, generally 5 and up. This Park features more climbing structures and obstacle courses that generally is suited for slightly older children. One of the most interesting features of Royal Park is that there are no stairs, instead the designers used big slabs of rocks to create natural stairs. In addition to the climbing structures, this park also includes a water feature, swing set, and slides. 

Royal Park in Melbourne, Australia.
Credit: D Hannah &

Westmoreland Nature Playground in Portland, Oregon

The Westmoreland Nature Playground in Oregon is another great example of a nature-based play space. This Park was designed to mimic the spring fed creek that flows through the park. While the creek itself is inaccessible to preserve salmon spawning sites, the playground includes a creek play area to mimic the natural phenomenon. In the creek play areas children have access to sand tables and tools and water pumps that flow through channels down towards the sand play area. Apart from the creek play area, this park also includes a more adventurous aspect with slides and climbing mounds. Carefully designed and rooted log and boulder mounds are available for children to climb. There are also loose sticks scattered around that park that can be used to build mini forts and structures.  

Westmoreland Nature Playground in Portland, Oregon

Nature-based Playgrounds in Columbia Valley

One of the most valuable aspects of natural playgrounds is that they are adaptable. There is no real rulebook for creating one of these parks, which means any community could use their imagination to make a nature playground that would best suit their own needs. For example, if CVPRD obtains a lot for a park that either has an interesting shape, or some standalone natural features – such as a large rock or stump – these elements could be incorporated into a natural park design! Another positive aspect of this kind of park design is how it seamlessly connects urban and natural development. Columbia Valley has lots of beautiful natural features, and a natural park could be a way blend in with and emphasize those features. If you’re curious to look at more nature-based playgrounds, check out some of the links below.

Sources used to make this post:

Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden opens in Sydney’s Centennial Parklands

HOT: Royal Park Nature Play, Parkville

Westmoreland Nature Play Area Opens

The Big Deal About Natural Playgrounds

Additional Sources:

Tumbling Bay Playground (London)

Morialta Mukanthi Conservation Park Playground (Australia)

Fairy-tale Treehouse Hovers Amid Cherry Blossom Trees (Japan)

History of Adventure/Risk/Junk Playgrounds

Welcome back to another blog post! Last week we did a spotlight post on NYCs “risky” adventure playgrounds. In these inner-city parks children are encouraged to explore and play without the direct intervention of parents. Materials such as wood, nails, paint, fabric, tires, etc. are available to the children, and the parents are asked to wait outside of the park boundaries where they can observe but not intervene. In these parks children learn important lessons about identifying risky behaviors in a controlled environment, while parents aren’t allowed inside there are playworkers that watch over the children and intervene and redirect when any truly dangerous behavior occurs. This week we will be covering more of the history behind these kinds of adventure parks and exploring more examples!

As mentioned in the previous blog post, the first adventure playground was constructed in 1943 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Park designer behind this first adventure park a man named C.T. Sorenson. Sorenson had designed many parks previously, but noticed children preferred to engage and play everywhere except the traditional playgrounds. He noticed that children had such a wonderful and wild imagination, why not give them a place to explore that – and thus, the adventure playground was born. 

“A junk playground in which children could create and shape, dream and imagine a reality”

C.T. Sorenson

The adventure playgrounds really started to take off in 1946 when Lady Allen of Hurtwood visited Sorenson’s adventure playground, was impressed, and brought the idea to London. There are an estimated 1,000 adventure playgrounds in Europe, yet there are only a handful here in the U.S. Germany alone has 400 different adventure playgrounds, clearly they have been incredibly successful and favored outside of the U.S. Berlin even hosted a worldwide conference, “Anima21: Adventure Playgrounds and City Farms for the 21st Century,” where a variety of workshops were held to expand the limits of imaginative play. 

A popular adventure playground is known as “The Land,” located in Whales. The Land opened in 2011 and an entire acre of fenced in play area, there is even a small stream that runs through the playground. Like other adventure playgrounds, The Land has a variety of materials available to children including pallets, rope, tires, hammers, etc. Below are some photos of The Land, shot by Erin Davis (who also created a documentary for this adventure park in 2015). 

(1) The Land adventure playground photographed by Erin Davis
(2) The Land adventure playground photographed by Erin Davis

Berkeley California is home to one of few adventure playgrounds in the U.S. In the photo below you can see that this adventure playground contains netting and abstract structures for the children to climb on, but there is also the typical tools and materials available to the children as well. Interestingly, parent supervision is required at this adventure playground since there are no playworkers available.

Adventure Playground in Berkeley, CA photographed by Chris Roberts Photography

One of the most exciting things about adventure playgrounds is that while they all hold onto the same concept, each of them are unique. There is so much room for creativity with each adventure park. A community could come together and decide which elements they would want to include in their own adventure park. There are opportunities for painting, building, playing, etc. the choices are only limited by imagination. More photos of different kinds of adventure parks have been included below, and at the end of the blog a list of sources and additional articles are available. 

Adventure Park in Huntington Beach, CA photographed by Catheryn Cervantes
Adventure Playground in Berkeley, CA photographed by Teddy Cross
Adventure Playground in Minneapolis, MN credit to Gabriel Kwan

If you are somebody who feels like adventure parks are a bad idea, I invite you to read this article by a blogger named Jill: 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Take Your Kids to Adventure Playground.

Additional Sources:

Adventure Playground History

Adventure Playgrounds – A Brief History

The Value Of Wild, Risky Play: Fire, Mud, Hammers And Nails


Adventure Play in Berkeley

Huntington Beach Adventure Playground

At the Adventure Playground, one man’s trash is a child’s treasure

A Short History of Playgrounds

Adventure Playgrounds: A Children’s World in The City

New York City’s Riskiest Park – play:groundNYC

CVPRD is excited to share another blog post series, this time showcasing different unconventional and extraordinary parks. We’ll be taking the next few weeks to research and highlight different park designs that are truly outside of the box. This week we’ll be diving into what is coined New York City’s Riskiest Park, enjoy!

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “risk” and “park” in the same sentence? It may be safe to assume that most people might feel uncomfortable by this pairing of words, certainly they would not assume that a risky park would be a place suitable for children. Well, a group of parents, teachers, and artists decided to challenge this common though by opening a park known as “play:groundNYC” in New York City, where children are encouraged to engage in self-directed play. Where risk is not seen as an inherently bad thing that one must avoid, but a critical part in children’s ability to assess and understand their own risk-taking behaviors.

Children freely exploring creative play at NYCs play:ground.
Credit: Marj Kleinman

Play:groundNYC is a 50,000 sq. ft. park where children are able to explore, destroy, create, and build freely – without parental interference. In this unique park, children have opportunities to explore a variety of materials including nails, saws, hammers, tires, paint, wood, and fabric. You may be thinking to yourself that this park sounds like a catastrophe waiting to happen, parents aren’t allowed inside, and children have free reign over all these potentially dangerous materials? Don’t worry, there are playworkers that watch over the children and help them distinguish the difference between a risk and a hazard. 

A Playworker (orange vest) oversees the actions of a young child safely exploring being destructive. 
Credit: Marj Kleinman

 Parents have often expressed being skeptical about the concept at first, of course nobody wants to intentionally put their child in any kind of danger. However, many parents have realized that this creative kind of play is similar to their own childhoods, the difference being that their children and now exploring in a controlled environment. This kind of play is incredibly beneficial for child development, the carefully curated environment allows children to experience risk and excitement (an important sensory need) without truly being in any danger. While parents are not allowed to hover over children in the park, they watch from a distance not too far away, and if anything truly dangerous were to appear – a playworker would step in to help guide and educate.   

The concept of adventure playgrounds seen in play:groundNYC is not new. It was in 1943 in Copenhagen, Denmark when the first adventure playground came to life. While there are 3 different adventure playgrounds in NYC, they have a hard time becoming popular due to parental fear. However, many parents who have given adventure playgrounds a chance have witnessed how these parks can be powerful learning environments – encouraging children to strengthen and develop “the 4Cs,” communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. If you knew there was a place where your kids could explore and develop critical skills in a controlled risky environment, would you give it a chance? 

People forget that children are people. You feel that you have to show them everything and that your way is right. And I think it’s incredibly valuable to remember that kids have agency, and they have rights, and they need space and tools and support, but they will make, for the most part, the right choice.

Rebekah Faulkner, executive director of play:groundNYC

Watch NBCs inside look on one of NYCs adventure parks here:

If you’re looking to read more about adventure parks, below are links to the sources used to create this blog post.

No Parents Allowed: Kids Explore, Take Risks at Junkyard Playgrounds.

The Junk Playgrounds of New York City.