BRLT’s new Oak Point Farm playground is a gem

Fri, 08/05/2022 - 9:00am

BRLT opened a new natural playground in a “branch cutting” ceremony July 16 at its Oak Point Farm headquarters. The playground was designed by Carson Douglas Landscape Architecture’s Bill Joyce, and built by Kennebec Trail Company’s John Copeland and funded by the Leland family.

We’ve heard it all before: “I’m too tired,” “I don’t want to walk,” etcetera. Parents who want to enjoy the Boothbay Region Land Trust trails out at Oak Point Farm, and might otherwise find themselves deterred from dragging kids along, now have a carrot to dangle as a treat at the end of a modest hike.

The creative play space offers countless climbing, hopping, balancing fixtures made out of natural materials, a nest swing, mud kitchen and a sand pit nestled in the bedrock of the landscape. Sculptor Dick Alden carved animal sculptures into the stone around the sand pit and slide, funded by Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens provided the mud kitchen.

Since its opening, BRLT staff said there has not been a moment of idleness on the playground – the area has had the constant sounds of imagination and feet running wild.

“The playground has seen visitors from dawn to dusk each day, even on hot and rainy days,” said BRLT Environmental Educator Tracey Hall. “In addition to the natural playground, there is also a story trail that allows hikers to read a family-friendly illustrated book while walking through the woods.”

Barbara Leland said she and husband Todd stopped by the site during the last days of construction and were awestruck by the features. Joyce was working on the last touches as his children enjoyed the landscape begging for more time when he was done for the day.

“It was clear right from that moment this was going to be a place loved by all children,” said Leland. “Its a gathering spot for families that inspires play and exploration away from screens, in all seasons, a place to discover the joy of being outdoors in Maine … We are thrilled to support BRLT.”

Hall said the planning started two years ago when BRLT purchased the Oak Point Farm property. The playground’s site popped out immediately when walking the property and with the help of Executive Director Nick Ullo, Hall said she was able to get full support from the BRLT board of trustees.

BRLT’s goal for the playground was not just to provide a space for kids’ enjoyment, but to serve as an introduction to its work and commitment in connecting people to conservation and education. Hall said parents have given a lot of positive feedback particularly on the use of natural materials and elements allowing open-ended play and the canopy’s shade which affords peeks of the pond.

“The natural playground has long been a dream of mine for several years after spending my career teaching children in the woods and seeing how important play was in connecting youth to nature,” she said. “We are still working on a few elements that we will be adding in the future, so we hope this will be a dynamic space over time.”

Full disclosure: Three of the children enjoying the playground in these photos are mine and my wife, Haley’s.