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Hardscape Solutions: Nature’s play

October 6, 2021 -  By
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Company: Designscapes Colorado
Location: Longmont, Colo.

An area decimated by the catastrophic 2013 Colorado Front Range flood is the location for Dickens Nature Farm Area. The city of Longmont worked with Designscapes Colorado to develop the land into a nature play area using some of the debris.

“There’s no typical equipment,” says Travis Sommervold, commercial assistant manager and lead estimator for Designscapes Colorado. “It’s all fallen logs, log climbers and stump staircases. The entire main play pit is built out of trees that were there during the flood.”

The area includes bike racks, gateways, benches created from the logs on-site and a sensory path with different elements such as flagstone, cobblestone, wood mulch, sand and more.

Designscapes Colorado stripped the bark and filled in holes with grout for the play elements created from trees. This move prevents the trees from further deterioration. Challenges included clearing flood debris, large tree removal, grading cobblestones and boulders into usable elements and weed management. Another challenge the crews faced was how to engineer cottonwood trees to form the gateway to the park.

Designscapes Colorado won a Bronze Award for this project in the 2020 National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Awards of Excellence program.

Before hardscape project (Photo: Designscapes Colorado)

Photo: Designscapes Colorado

A look at the land preconstruction.

Before hardscape project (Photo: Designscapes Colorado)

Photo: Designscapes Colorado

A large fallen tree Designscapes Colorado repurposed as a focal play element.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

An aerial shot of Dickens Nature Farm Area’s Discovery Island after completion.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

This 20-foot-tall grand gateway made out of cottonwood trees welcomes visitors to Discovery Island.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

To use as many fallen trees as possible, Designscapes Colorado tagged and sorted all downed trees to use in elements such as this bike rack.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

Stone deposited onsite by flooding fills the cobble stream beds at the Sand Point Well.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

This series of play areas include a vine tunnel, balance circuit and pole course.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

These vines will climb up and fill the tunnel in time.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

An overview of the first play area with a vine tunnel, balance circuit, pole course and bench. Designscapes Colorado milled the logs horizontally to create the park benches.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

In this play area, a sensory path, nest and sandblasted totem pole furnish the foreground and salvaged logs in the background.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

The sensory path, outfitted with rocks, sand and logs, gives visitors the opportunity to experience walking on various textures.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

A boulder wall with an Earth tunnel gives the park a natural feel.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

A log ladder leads to the upper berm of the park for play and an outdoor classroom.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

A close-up of the carved log ladder.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

A stump staircase winds to the large fallen tree as the bear evolution totem stands in the foreground.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

A close-up of the sandblasted bear evolution totem.

Hardscapes project (Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals)

Photo: Derek Johnson Visuals

To prepare this tree for use in play, Designscapes Colorado stripped the bark off the 12-foot-tall, 60- to 70-foot-long tree and filled all holes.

Christina Herrick

About the Author:

Christina Herrick is the editor of Landscape Management magazine. Known for her immersive approach to travel from coast to coast in her previous stint as senior editor of American Fruit Grower Magazine, she uses social media (Twitter/Instagram @EditorHerrick) to share her experiences on the road with her audience. Herrick has a degree in journalism from Ohio Northern University and has been in B2B publishing for seven years. She can be reached at cherrick@northcoastmedia.net.

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