Pint-sized play spaces let kids be kids

June 29, 2012 

Justin Poore’s kids, Tripp, 9, and Corbin, 7, begged him for a tree house, and with a couple of weekends’ work and $800, he delivered.

It’s easy to miss the quaint neighborhood nestled in this bustling part of Cary. The trees form a dense canopy over the entrance. And it’s just one street, with stately brick homes built only on the left-hand side of the road. But the neighborhood comes with a cool perk; the property directly across the street belongs to each respective homeowner.

“It’s like the street runs through our property,” says Justin Poore, who lives on one of the nearly one-acre lots in the Ambiance subdivision in Cary, located behind Waverly Place Shopping Center. Turns out, that empty lot, a mini-forest really, was the perfect spot for a tree house.

Poore is a stay-at-home dad and about two years ago his boys, Tripp, 9, and Corbin, 7, began begging him for a tree house. So one day when the family was en route to the beach, Poore noticed some tree houses for sale on the side of the road.

“We stopped to look at them, and the guy was asking an insane amount of money for these things — from $3,000 to $5,000,” remembers Poore. “I thought, ‘I can do that.’”

‘Super cool’

And he did. Poore spent about $800 and four days building what his kids now dub “Fort Creekside.” This kids’ paradise features a few amenities that just might qualify it for a man-cave-in-the-making, including screened windows and doors and a balcony with a water view.

Poore next wants to install flip-up beds hinged to the wall. “My neighbor says we need to run power over there,” he jokes, “so we’d have a place to go if we get kicked out of our houses.”

Even now there’s a battery-powered light over a little table where the boys convene after hours spent combing the wide creek for crawfish and stamping across the bridge Poore made that makes exploring both sides of the creek a lot easier. Poore also created trails through the woods with mulch he gets free.

“My kids think it’s super cool,” says Poore. “They’re over there all the time. They eat lunch on the weekends over there.” Kids from other neighborhoods stop by too. But Poore admits he thinks that might have to do more with the creek than the tree house he built.

“That little bit of woods has so much wildlife in it, it’s amazing,” he says. “There’s lots of deer over there in the fall, especially right before sunset. We’ve seen fox, raccoons, possum, you name it.”

Poore checked with the Town of Cary before he built the townhouse and learned he didn’t need a permit as long as it was less than 10 by 10 feet. He even found a way around digging footings. The fort is an eight-by-eight-foot cube built largely of decking boards.

“It makes it look kind of like a log cabin,” says Poore. “There’s not a single nail in the thing; it’s all screwed together. If I had to, I could unscrew it and take it apart piece by piece.”

Not that he’ll be doing that anytime soon. Poore doesn’t want a pint-sized revolt on his hands. He’s got no regrets he didn’t buy a pre-fab house. “It’s much better built. Most of the playsets you buy, the boards they use aren’t even a half-inch thick. They definitely don’t have tar paper and 50-year shingles on them.”

The perfect tree

Two years ago, when his daughter’s kids were six and four, Mike Spears decided to take advantage of his one-acre backyard in Fuquay-Varina and build his grandkids a grand tree house.

A builder and remodeler by profession, Spears had no trouble fashioning a tree house with pint-sized steps for easy climbing, a Dutch door (where the top and bottom open separately) and a balcony and walkway that lead to a swinging rope bridge.

It was one tree in particular that got him thinking.

“I liked the tree — a maple tree with a big diameter,” says Spears. “It just seemed like the perfect place to have a tree house. We started with the platform and went from there.”

Spears estimates he spent about $600 and four or five weekends building the tree house. He also added two big old-fashioned swings that hang from an enormous branch of another tree in his yard.

His grandkids liked the tree house a lot. “They were excited about it,” Spears said. “My grandson and one of his buddies wanted to sleep out there.” But Spears suggested the kids try the screened porch attached to the house instead because he had a hunch a night in the tree house might be a little too scary. “They only lasted about an hour on the porch,” he laughs.

Lately Spears’ grandkids don’t use the tree house as much. Fortunately, there’s a whole new batch of grandkids — three, in fact — that are beginning to age into it.

“My son’s oldest, who’s four now, he really likes it,” says Spears. “I’m thinking now I might do something else with it. I might screen in the windows, maybe put another door on. A zip-line is a possibility too.” Lucky kids.

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