Demolition is set to begin at the end of September on the highly anticipated new Lake Bluff lower playground, with construction to follow thereafter.
The new playground, which is geared towards 2-5 year old children, will feature three main areas: an outdoor classroom, an adventure play section, and a village play section. Some exciting highlights include a stump and boulder balance course, a climbing retaining wall, a log scramble with climbing net and ropes, stationary musical instruments, a two-tier sand play area, a mud kitchen, a sensory pathway, and more. Natural materials, sourced for sustainability, are used throughout and sculpted to integrate with the natural environment.
Many of the playground features such as pour-in-place rubber safety surfaces, circulation pathways, and slide set-up, were designed with different mobility needs in mind, so there will be many ADA accessible features throughout the playground.
The overall concept for a natural playscape was shaped by a Lake Bluff PTO project and the community feedback generated. The District used inspiration from and built upon the PTO’s initial playground improvement idea, incorporating many of the envisioned elements.
“We are thankful to the PTO for surfacing the idea of a natural playscape and to our teaching staff for identifying different experiences to encourage through outdoor play, including both active play and social-emotional learning,” says the District’s Director of Business Services Heather Heaviland. “The new plascape will also engage kids’ different senses with features like a sensory pathway and their adventurous spirits with a trike path based on the actual course for the Miami Grand Prix.”
Additional input sessions--one of which was held during April 2022 Open House– provided further insight on the playground priorities of District families and staff.
GRG held additional follow-up input sessions at the end of the 2022-23 school year with the District’s facilities and maintenance team as well as with Lake Bluff educators to go through the preliminary plans. Representatives from Lake Bluff’s Early Education Center (EEC) building, including 5K teachers Tricia Mandella and Mollie Griffin, were instrumental in these discussions.
“I'm excited about the incorporation of natural materials to create a more natural playscape,” says Mandella. “One of the highlights will be an outdoor classroom space. It’s important to be able to offer opportunities and space for outdoor learning to occur. I am also excited that the playground is getting a well deserved face-lift, if you will. The current playground has been well loved, but it's time for some changes. There will be some new areas with poured surfaces which will allow access for students of all abilities to utilize the new playground.“
Griffin adds,“I am excited about everything that our new playground has to offer! Our playground is not only enjoyed by our Lake Bluff students, but also by the surrounding children in the neighborhood. There are many cool features to the playground and I'm excited about all the new structures that will be built for our students to enjoy! Play is such an important part of our school day at Lake Bluff. A new playground is important for our youngest students to be able to enjoy the outdoors safely. The natural playscape will allow for outdoor fun and learning.”
GRG also engaged with special education families in Spring 2022 to gather additional insight on what parents desired from the playground spaces.
The District has hired GRG Playscapes, a natural playground company, to execute the project and the playground—which is currently on budget—will be funded through referendum dollars.
You can view the Lake Bluff 2-5 Year Old Playscape Site Overview here.
Surfacing of the playground will happen this fall and the District hopes to have some structural elements installed before winter, though the schedule is highly dependent on weather conditions. The projected playground completion date is Spring 2023.