Clayton News-Star

Clayton group unveils ‘Celebration Playground’

The “Contemplate” area would feature a water-touch wall, flag fans and a swing bridge.
The “Contemplate” area would feature a water-touch wall, flag fans and a swing bridge. CLH DESIGN, P.A.

While Clayton’s park system has grown in recent decades, a “Mud Café” will be a first.

At the café, proposed as part of a universal playground, children could use spoons, measuring cups and rolling pins to make “leaf tacos,” “grass pasta” or an old-fashioned “mud pie.”

Architect Chris Hilt said the “Mud Café,” one of dozens of elements included in the playground’s design, would be fun, educational and accessible to all.

“We want to show children, parents and teachers that it’s OK to get dirty,” Hilt said. “It’s OK to touch the flowers, to walk and crawl on the grass.”

The Town of Clayton hired Hilt’s Raleigh-based CLH Design to create a place where children of all abilities can play in East Clayton Community Park. The town’s private partner, the Clayton Community Recreational Foundation, unveiled those plans to prospective donors this past week.

The estimated $600,000 playground would be divided into three main play areas – “Celebrate,” “Create” and “Contemplate” – each of which would be spread across about two acres.

Here are other elements in the design:

•  A fort-like tower would serve as the centerpiece of the “Celebrate” area. Hilt said a barrier-free spiral path would provide one way to access the elevated structure. Inside the fort, she said, a large, open space would hopefully facilitate interaction among all children.

•  Safety paths in each area would provide a softer, “fall-attenuating” surface. Hilt said the paths would also give more freedom for children to explore other playground features, like a custom-made dolphin or boulders that kids could climb on in the “Celebrate” area.

•  A craft house in the “Create” area would provides space for small-group activities and park programs. Designers say the space would be purposely small to provide a nook for kids who need a quieter space.

•  A bird blind would allow children to look through “peep holes” and observe birds in a forest canopy.

•  Pull-up bars and ladybugs located at ground level in the “Contemplate” area. Designers say these features would give wheelchair users a chance to build their upper-body motor skills and provide therapy.

•  A curtain of water positioned at a child’s seated height, which Hilt said would invite users to touch or watch.

Bill Futterer, who sits on the universal playground’s finance committee, said specific elements in the design might change as the group gets feedback from residents, prospective donors and manufacturers.

The committee hopes to raise the majority of its dollars from area businesses and organizations. Jean Sandaire, chairman of the finance committee, said the group might also pursue grant funding.

Caterpillar, whose Product Development Center is near the proposed playground, has already said it will take care of site preparation, nearly an $80,000 commitment.

For more information, search “Clayton Universal Playground” on Facebook or call the Town of Clayton’s Parks and Recreation Department at 919-553-1550.