May 19, 2014
Silver Falls State Park is set to play host to a grand opening celebration May 31, launching the first "natural play" area for children ever constructed in an Oregon state park. The event will be held Saturday, May 31 from 10 am-noon at the North Falls Group Camp area. The event is open to the public.
"Connecting kids to the outdoors is a critically important thing to do, for a whole host of reasons," said Oregon Parks and Recreation Director (OPRD) Director Lisa VanLaanen. "When you camp, picnic and play outdoors a lot as a child, it creates a lifelong love of the outdoors," she said. "And that's good for everybody."
Natural play areas for children is a phenomenon that seems to resonate with park planners and parents in general. The concept reflects a growing worry that today's children suffer from "nature deficit disorder," a term coined by journalist and author Richard Louv. His 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, has sparked a nationwide discussion about the decline of children's interaction with the natural world.
What is a natural play area? It's a safe place for unstructured play, created to spark the imagination and encourage physical activity. At Silver Falls, this takes the form of a ?1/4-mile loop of adventure pods. Kids can climb a tree, hide out in a cougar's "den," growl like a bear, weave a bird's nest, look for tracks, and see the world through the eyes of other animals.
The new natural play area at Silver Falls was more than five years in the making. Planners conducted several design workshops in 2008-2009, and trail construction began in 2010. The trail as it exists today represents Phase 1 of development, with the possibility of another pod within a year or so.
The grand opening celebration offers guided tours, refreshments, and a short ceremony with a symbolic tree planting. J.R. Beaver, the OPRD mascot, will be on hand. Parking fees at the North Falls Group Camp parking lot will be waived for the duration of the event.
Silver Falls State Park is located on Oregon 214 26 miles east of Salem. The Nature Play area is at the north end of the park. Signs are posted.