Oak Point Farm’s diverse natural features provide many great benefits to the Boothbay region, including offering the ideal setting for BRLT’s growing educational outreach. One of Boothbay Region Land Trust’s strategic focus areas is education. Among its goals is to develop programs that reach youth of all ages throughout the region. The land trust hopes to foster a deep and lasting connection to nature among the next generation, and as part of this effort, we are excited to share plans for a new natural play space in development at Oak Point Farm. With specially designed features that encourage interaction with nature through play, kids will be inspired to create, explore, and learn about the natural world.
The idea for a natural play space has been taking shape over the past few years as BRLT has increased collaborations with schools and childcare facilities and expanded programs at Oak Point Farm. Since moving to Oak Point, the land trust has been able to observe how families, school groups, camps and daycares utilize the preserve during visits. One notable observation has been that families attending our educational programs tend to stay on after programs end with caregivers wanting to talk and kids wanting to play. However, there is not always a great location for these casual gatherings to take place. At times caregivers may gather near the parking lot until their children become too unruly. School groups and daycares also enjoy visits, but are limited by how and where to take breaks following educational programs. Without a designated place for groups to enjoy unstructured play before departing, staying on has not always been an option. BRLT saw an opportunity to better engage with children by creating a space that encouraged direct and unstructured outdoor play in nature.
Natural play spaces are play areas designed to incorporate natural elements such as wood, stone, sand and plants to foster creative play among children while blending cohesively into their surroundings. They include features that invite children to explore nature and incorporate natural materials into their play. Natural play spaces are less structured than standard playgrounds, and their features invite interpretation and imagination. These spaces create inclusive environments through their open-concept designs and accessible settings that promote creativity and learning, while fostering an interest in nature.
The natural play space at Oak Point Farm will be located in a wooded area a short distance from the main parking lot. Local landscape architect Bill Joyce of Carson Douglas Landscape Architecture in Edgecomb has created a concept design in consultation with BRLT staff. “The concept design has laid out a number of great, creative options for us to draw on,” explains Executive Director Nick Ullo. “As we begin to prep the area later this summer and into the fall, we will be able to better determine the features that work best with the setting including the granite and rock formations as well as the tree circle. We look forward to sharing more updates as the project moves forward.”
John Copeland of Kennebec Trail Company in Bath, who has worked with BRLT most recently installing the universal access trails at Oak Point Farm, will be assisting with this project as well.
The new space will ultimately enhance BRLT’s existing children’s programming by providing additional resources for use by visiting groups from daycares to schools. It will also provide a safe and stimulating setting for children to play.