The Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Short Street Nature Preserve and Play Space, which took place on Sunday, July 10th, was a great success. We had gorgeous weather (after rescheduling from what turned out to be a very wet Saturday!), with many children enjoying the space and a Kona Ice treat. Neighbors came out to hear the story of the Short Street Nature Preserve and Play Space and learn about the project and why it matters.
Rachel Toker, from Urban Ecosystem Restorations (UER), and Bettina Thompson, President of the Lakelands Community Association, spoke to the attendees about the project. Rachel Toker explained that the space will become an Eco-Functioning Space over the next 6-9 months. Eco-functioning spaces are spaces that partner with Nature to support ecosystem function and address problems like flooding, contaminated water and air, biodiversity loss, and climate change.
This project will occur in two phases: the NATURE PLAY phase, which has started, and the PLANTING PHASE, which will start in the fall.
Most of the Nature Play phase has been installed: the playhouse, stump balance beam, and climbing ramp. Still to come will be the “find and seek” signs that will be installed along the “lookout” perch (next to the telescopes) – that will have colorful pictures of the “powerhouse” plants in the wet meadows and that will ask kids if they can find the living plants using the telescopes. Coming up soon, residents from the community will create “nature art tiles” that reflect personal connections to nature and that will be installed on the nature art poles at the site in September.
Nature Play is a learning process in a natural area, that helps kids of all ages to understand the workings of the world around them. and teaches kids to engage with diverse natural elements, materials, organisms, and habitats, sensory, fine motor, and gross motor experiences. Nature Play promotes movement and connection to others and the natural world while improving mental and physical health. Nature play gets people playing in and enjoying Nature. Nature Play avoids a “nature on the side” design – a situation where we carve up space so the environment gets its share and we get ours. Nature Play lets us share one space and get a larger space for both of us in the process.
Phase 2 will introduce the new plant communities, which will be installed in October, along with the educational signage. The entire site will be replanted with a range of hearty, native plants that can adapt to the different ecological conditions within this site alone. Plantings will happen in the fall, but some of the plants will not emerge until next spring. Once the project is fully installed, the native plant communities will begin a process of sending their deep roots down into the ground (making the soils more porous) and enriching the soils, all of which causes the water to soak down into the ground – where it is then filtered before it reenters the water cycle below ground. This space will also do a better job of cleaning the air, sequestering carbon, stopping erosion, and attracting many more species of birds and butterflies than it does now. And when the birds come, and they will eat the insects that they love and we hate.