HOUSTON, Minnesota (WXOW) – Houston's new natural playground looks nothing like a traditional playground.
"People that are coming out here are going ‘oh my gosh! This is so neat! I've never seen anything like this before!'" said Karla Bloem, Director and Naturalist at the Houston Nature Center in Houston, MN.
It covers about one acre of land in Houston, Minnesota's Trailhead Park, and has all sorts of interesting elements. Like a hill with a climbing wall, caves with fossils, and even a water pump.
"Kids just naturally do what they're supposed to do," said Bloem. "They're climbing on the rocks, they're digging in the sand, they love pumping the water."
In our region, this type of playground is rare, but Bloem said they're gaining popularity.
"Studies have found that kids that are playing in Nature, and if you look at this, we're really getting to be in nature," said Bloem, "they're finding that they're mentally and physically healthier than kids who don't."
And because natural playgrounds are designed to be climbed on, rolled down, and jumped off of, she said they are actually safer than most conventional play equipment.
"On traditional playgrounds, kids get sick of using them the way they're supposed to use them," said Bloem. "So they start doing things that they were never intended to have done. And that's when they start getting hurt."
Although there are still some aspects of the playground that still need finishing touches, the playground has been in use since the spring. So far, Bloem said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
"One of the adults commented one of the things they don't like about a traditional playground is, you know, he's over 6'3" or something like that, and he's a big guy. He can't play with his kids on the playground. This playground he can play with his kids."
The playground has been under construction since August 2012. About $110,000 was raised for the project with an additional $7000 of in-kind donations and around 1000 hours of volunteer labor. Bloem said without the support of the community this project would not have been possible.
The official ribbon cutting ceremony for the natural playground is this Saturday at 2pm.
The ceremony is in conjunction with the "Taste of the Trail" event in Houston. For more information on the ribbon cutting ceremony you can visit the Houston Nature Center's public Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/HoustonNatureCenter.
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