When staff at Three Rivers Park District began the process of redesigning the play area at French Regional Park in Plymouth, they knew it was imperative to solicit feedback from their number one demographic: kids.
That’s where Renee Pelton and her 2015-2016 third grade class at Park Brook Elementary came in. Now fourth-graders, Pelton’s former students are an integral part of the two-year, $1 million project to design a new play area.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the kids to see what goes into the development of the park and work with the people who are involved in that,” Pelton said. “They’re seeing the project from start to finish, and that’s an awesome experience.”
Dubbed the “Kid Task Force,” Park Brook students have made several trips to French Park and will continue to make regular visits to the site throughout the next 18 months. During their visits, Kid Task Force members provide input on design elements such as slides, towers and climbing nets; choose the color palette they would like to see incorporated into the play area; and learn about the construction process.
“The goal of this project is to design and build a new play area that kids of all ages from throughout suburban Hennepin County are excited to visit,” Amy Gurski, director of design at Three Rivers Park District, wrote in a letter to Kid Task Force Members last spring.
Park Brook students’ input has already proven valuable to the overall design. Based on their feedback, for example, Three Rivers staff chose a different type of swing than was originally planned for the play area.
At their most recent meeting on Feb. 23, Kid Task Force members voted on the colors for the slides, posts and rubber surfacing for the play area. Blues and greens ruled the day—choices that also received thumbs up from the Three Rivers team.
“The kids have really enjoyed being a part of this project,” Pelton noted. “I think they understand that not many people get this opportunity, so I’ve tried to talk to them about the impact their decisions will have for future generations. This will be a play area they can bring their kids to in the future. It an awesome partnership with the park district.”
The existing play area at French Park was built in 1988. Three Rivers officials closed that play area last fall and construction on the new play area is expected to begin this spring. Park Brook Kid Task Force members will visit the site again in April to continue planning for the new structure.
A grand re-opening event for the new play area is planned for 2018.