Ample And Acessible

As the oldest park in the Elmhurst Park District’s holdings, WilderPark was in need of a makeover. Located in the heart of Elmhurst, Ill., the park is bordered by the Elmhurst Public Library, ElmhurstArt Museum, Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Arts, WilderMansion, and several elementary schools. Originally constructed in 1995, the park playground became part of a larger 2011 rejuvenation project partially funded through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grant. Since it is such a heavily utilized space by residents and students from the adjacent facilities, the goal of the design was to accommodate as many playing children as possible. The result was a groundbreaking 8,000-plus-square-foot custom playground that children couldn’t wait to explore.

Prepare To Launch

The park district replaces a different playground every year. With 18 playgrounds in the system, the current schedule ensures that a playground is updated approximately every 20 years with new ADA- and safety regulations. The design process includes two public meetings where residents give their input, and two board meetings where the concepts are reviewed and then voted on for final approval. PowerPoint presentations of plan views, 3-D perspectives,

Amenities at Wilder Park include numerous play activities, climbers, boulders, slides, spinners, tunnels, and shade sails.  Photos Courtesy Of Elmhurst Park District

Amenities at Wilder Park include numerous play activities, climbers, boulders, slides, spinners, tunnels, and shade sails.

Photos Courtesy Of Elmhurst Park District

and virtual-reality walkthroughs of the different concepts give a clear vision of what the playground will look like when complete. Prior to the new playground installation, the non-profit organization Kids Around the World removed the existing playground and refurbished the structures before transporting them to an orphanage in Thailand that did not have a playground, effectively recycling the playground. This partnership not only helps less-fortunate children in other countries but also saves the park district money on demolition costs as Kids Around the World takes down the equipment.

The playground’s main structure is the focal point of the design. The interior features a 12-foot-high pyramid net climber with four net bridges connecting the main pyramid climber to the exterior equipment. This equipment—made of traditional ramps and decks—forms a square around the net climber and includes numerous play activities, climbers, boulders, slides, spinners, tunnels, and shade sails. The playground portion of the project cost approximately $400,000.

The preschool area features a more classic layout with a main structure, ground components, and a sandbox. This structure includes a club house, bridges, tunnel, climber, curved slide, double slide, and spiral slide. The “idea structure” is ground-accessible, integrated into the sandbox, and includes several interactive panels. Freestanding spring toys serve as ground components. The preschool main structure was incorporated into the sandbox to help save on surfacing costs and increase the fun!

Working Out The Kinks

Sandboxes present an ongoing challenge for the park district, since they are always one of the most popular play features but messy and difficult to maintain. To alleviate the amount of sand traveling from the sandbox, an 18-inch-high stone sitting wall was constructed to help contain the sand, as well as provide more seating opportunities. However, this did not work as well as anticipated because the wall could only be built on one side due to the fall zones of the preschool main structure. The drinking fountain—equipped with pet bowl—was placed on the opposite side of the playground from the sandbox so kids won’t clog the fountain with sand.

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