LA CROSSE, WI (WXOW)—Myrick Hixon Eco Park just opened the first phase of playscapes at the park.
The playscapes were designed to keep children active outdoors.
Dr. Jeff Su, Eco Park Executive Director said children between 8 and 18-years-old spend an average of 53-hours a week in front of a screen.
"We really need to have kids playing outdoors, being active," Su said. "It's been shown to be vital for their emotional health, intellectual health and learning."
The first playscape, Wild Water, helps kids learn about the flow of water. They can make it rain by waving their hand over a pole.
"It rains down on them, the water gathers in a stream and they can play with the flow of water by building dams and moving water around," Su said.
When the next playscape, Forest Scramble, is open children will be able to climb and explore the vertical world of the forest.
"A great way to think about it is like a giant ewok village," Su said. "Its tree houses, canopy walkways, board walks, cargo nets to climb up."
They have plans to add on a high ropes course and a zip line.
Su said Prairie Mystery, a prairie grass maze, was designed to teach children about Wisconsin's roots of grounds covered in prairie grass.
"While we'd love to bring back thousands of herds of buffalo and huge expanses of prairie we can't, but we can give the kids the experience of being in a prairie by creating a maze," Su said.
Eventually the maze will be covered in grass about ten feet high.
Farm Play is designed around a 100-year-old timber frame barn that was donated to Eco Park.
"Having a barn on site is a great way to educate children about food systems and where our food comes from," Su said.
The barn area will feature a garden with a tricycle ride so children can bring vegetables from the garden to the veggie stand, a picnic area and farm animal displays.
Admission to Eco Park playscapes is free, but eventually, they will charge an admission fee similar in size to the Children's Museum $6.00.
Eco Park is still finalizing plans, so the final cost to finish the playscapes is undecided. But, they are already fundraising and have volunteer opportunities available. For more information contact the Eco Park at 608-784-0303 or visit their web site http://www.mhecopark.org.
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