The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center recently debuted its new imaginative playscape, which began construction in 2017 to make the park more visitor-friendly. The Nature Playscape is just under an acre in size and is directed towards children, aiming to inspire nature play rather than by using traditional playground equipment.
The play area features a “spider’s web” made out of cable, allowing children to pretend they are catching bugs, as well as a “grass climb” made of green spikes with stepping pads allowing children to mimic a grasshopper. Toddlers are kept engaged by playing in the big sandbox or at an area called “Flower Fun,” which invites them to climb around a structure meant to replicate flower petals.
The park grounds, located across from Memorial Park, formerly suffered mass destruction after Hurricane Ike in 2008 and during the devastating drought in 2011, where it lost 50% of its tree canopy. After both weather events, park managers assessed what remained and concluded the park was no longer the grassy prairie it was back in 1967 when it first opened.
Christine Mansfield, senior manager of marketing and development at the nature center, said “land can adapt to how we use it, but ultimately it tells you what it wants to be,” as reported by the Houston Chronicle.
Over the past few years, park managers have worked tirelessly to restore more of the land to its natural condition by adding more prairie grass rather than more trees.
The original Nature Center located on the grounds has now been remodeled and converted into a shop, classrooms, and an interactive exhibit. All expenses were paid for because of a fundraising campaign that began in 2012 and has raised a total of $25.8 million.
The park grounds have experienced their fair share of hardships from weather-related events such as having to close its walking trails and dealing with a sinkhole. Nevertheless, the renovations have made the park a more enjoyable place to visit. Bridges have been relocated and elevated, while mulch has been added to trails, all in hopes of avoiding future issues. Visitors are urged to stay on the trails, as there is the possibility of running into some poisonous snakes during your visit.