Nature Playce is a 2-acre nature playground that includes treehouses with a swinging bridge, a miniature zip line, giant birds nest, mud kitchen, stage and amphitheater with music area, wading pond, living willow huts, giant Lincoln Logs, and a rock mountain with a slide, among other play areas. Nature Playce also includes a sensory path and some components of the nature playground are specifically designed for ADA accessibility.
A nature playground is different than a traditional playground because it is a natural play environment where children can explore and play with natural elements such as sand, water, wood and living plants. “90 percent of what we have constructed for the playground is made out of natural materials or encourages the children to get closer to nature, to be experiencing nature, so it’s pretty different,” said Melinda Carmichael, associate director of Beech Creek Gardens.
Nature Playce is unique to the greater Alliance and Akron-Canton areas, with the next closest nature playground being near Cleveland. Local visitors as well as visitors from out of the area and out-of-state will enjoy experiencing the new Nature Playce, as well as everything else Beech Creek Gardens has to offer.which includes access to all the current exhibits and outdoor areas, such as Nature Playce, Art in Bloom, the Amazing Garden Plant Science Center, Caterpillar Nursery, botanical gardens, hiking trails, and picnic areas.
Beech Creek members and children ages two and under receive free general admission year-round. Members have access to Nature Playce and the grounds every day of the year from dawn to dusk. For more information about Nature Playce, admission costs, and daily operating hours visit www.beechcreekgardens.org. Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve is located at 11929 Beech St NE in Alliance, Ohio, one mile east of State Route 62.
Constructing a nature playground was a goal of the nonprofit organization for the past decade, inspired by seeing children become increasingly disconnected from nature and spending more time indoors in front of screens. According to a 2017 report by nonprofit organization Common Sense Media, children ages 0 to 8 spend an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes daily using screen media. As children age, the amount of screen time increases, with children ages 8 to 12 spending an average of 4.5 hours using screen media, and teenagers spending up to 7.5 hours per day in front of screens. On the contrary, children spend an average of only 4 to 7 minutes in unstructured outdoor play per day, according to the National Recreation and Park Association. “Children need to reconnect to nature,” explained Carmichael. “Because if they’re not connected to nature as they grow and become adults, they don’t have the subconscious reactions of how to protect the environment and why they need to protect the environment; they just want to do more technology.”
After securing a grant from the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation and receiving generous donations specifically designated for Nature Playce, the dream of building a nature playground would finally become a reality for Beech Creek Gardens. “We understand how much people need to connect with the outdoors and children especially, so we had a vision to create a place where children would be playing and having fun, learning, breathing in fresh air, getting physical activity, and not even knowing it,” said Carmichael. “Nature Playce is going to allow kids a great place to be kids, to play and explore, and do things that maybe they’ve never done before,” added Kay Zank, a volunteer at Beech Creek Gardens and one of several committee members who planned the grand opening celebration.