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Playtime in North Liberty

Innovative playground coming to Centennial Park
Concept illustrations of Centennial Park’s upcoming climbing playground designed by ID Sculpture. Unique to the Corridor, the play features mimic elements from nature and are scheduled for delivery the week of July 16. Contrary to the illustration above, engineered food fiber will be used for surfacing. (concept illustrations by ID Sculpture)

NORTH LIBERTY– This summer, kids will be making slide runs and scaling rope rungs to a backdrop of blues music. Come July, Centennial Park will finally have its own playground– two, in fact.

Conventional playground

The first playground will be installed on the far northeast corner of Centennial Park next month. The feature is scheduled for assembly the week of Monday, June 18, through Friday, June 22, with surfacing to be installed the following week. This makes it ready for a slew of rambunctious kids come North Liberty’s 12th annual Blues & BBQ on July 14, its fifth year at Centennial Park.
In addition to the more conventional slides, platforms and climbing equipment, the new playground will also feature an inclusive ramp as well as a “rock-n-ship” and “spinner” play feature that invite kids using a wheel chair to join in.
Rubber engineered protective surfacing will be used on Centennial’s playground, the first of its kind with regards to North Liberty’s city parks. While more expensive, the result is much cleaner, the idea being it will prevent kids from scattering wood fibers in the future park buildings.

Climbing playground

Kids looking for something a bit more unique in their city’s playground arsenal won’t have to wait long. In July, North Liberty will erect a second playground west of the conventional installation. This will include a variety of features that mimic natural world settings– most prominently, large structures known as “performance boulders,” which allow users to simulate rock climbing. Such playground features will recreate the unique geological formations of the American Southwest in a smaller scale, offering North Liberty one of the most unique playgrounds in the Corridor.
Made by ID Sculpture out of Gunnison, Colorado, the simulated rock structures use a digitally fabricated armature encapsulated with a specially formulated shell of glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC). The GFRC structural shell is hand-sculpted and finished for a result that’s lightweight yet durable with high textural detail. The playground features conform to ASTM F1487, the “Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use,” as well as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Guidelines.
The new playground will feature a mix of performance boulders suitable for older kids and adults, such as the 10-foot-tall Pagosa boulder and Moab arch, as well as play features more accessible to younger children such as stepping forms in the style of wooden stumps, tree trunk balance beams and a winding “Tree of Life” vine.
As opposed to the rubberized surfacing planned for the conventional playground in June, the more common engineered wood fiber will serve as a foundation for the climbing playground. A trail will run through the middle of the play area, with five large play installations on one side and four main installations containing various smaller features on the other side.
The inspiration for such a playground dates back to a family vacation in 2005 when Parks Director Guy Goldsmith visited Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A designated National Natural Landmark, the public park features a number of outstanding geologic features formed out of ancient sedimentary rock beds.
“I just wanted to bring something back that was a little more unique to the area,” said Goldsmith. “You don’t see this in this area too much, and I know climbing is very popular.”
Preceding installation, the city has to plan use zones for each climbing feature and install concrete footings. The rock climbing playground, however, will not be installed in time for Blues & BBQ, with delivery scheduled for the week of July 16.

Looking ahead

Centennial Park, opened in 2013 on St. Andrews Drive west of Jones Boulevard, is the City of North Liberty’s largest park. The 40 acres of greenspace are currently in Phase 3 of an ambitious development plan.
Following the playgrounds, a road to go around the interior of the park was initially proposed for the FY19 budget but was put on hold by the city council. Goldsmith said construction will depend on funding sources and when those sources become available.
Three picnic shelters are then planned for construction around the park following the completion of the road. Goldsmith anticipates the road around the interior of the park to be constructed first in anticipation of the shelters.
Between the two playgrounds near the entrance of the park, a dual-purpose structure will be constructed, featuring a climate-controlled pavilion to the north and a band shell amphitheater on its southern wing. The timeline of this future centerpiece to the park could depend heavily on funding sources.
A smaller counterpart to the conventional playground, designed for ages 2 to 5, will then be installed as early as fiscal year 2020. And a splash pad will be included near the conventional playground, with a mechanical room to be incorporated into the pavilion to house the water works. Finally, a garden-honorarium facing the detection pond in the northwest corner will likely be one of the last features to be built for Centennial Park. This will include a gazebo, sculpture garden, flower garden and an honorarium for service men and women.