Catherine Frye Outdoor Playscape Takes Shape

by Sylvania AdVantage Staff

The Outdoor Playscape at the north end of Olander Park is named for Catherine Frye, who was one of the first commissioners of Olander Park, along with Milton Olander and Jack Callahan. She helped to establish Olander Park in 1960, and was an integral part of opening it to the public in 1963.
The play area in her name debuted in 2013, and was dedicated as a memorial to her legacy with the park system. It initially contained the Bonita Scheidel amphitheater, several garden boxes, a greenhouse made with pop bottles, and a Stream Exploration Area with decks and a rain garden. This was the first phase of a comprehensive plan to create a natural play area that would be a place for children to run around free, explore a creek and experience plants and natural surroundings.

In the early summer of 2018, planning started for the second phase of the Outdoor Playscape at Olander park. A focus group that combined community partners, citizen volunteers and park staff worked to create a concept that would set the new play area apart from others in the region. The goal was to have a playground featuring natural elements and organic materials that challenge kids of all ages with an unstructured style of play not seen in most commercial playgrounds. TOPS Project Manager Dan Marsalek collaborated with local landscape architects at The Collaborative along with playground specialists APE Studios (New York) to help refine the overall design for the Outdoor Playscape and specify the play equipment that would be installed in this quarter million dollar project.
Construction work began in August of 2019 with the rejuvenation of the stream exploration area – removing the rain garden, working on the decks, creating a retaining wall using large Indiana limestone outcropping rocks, and building an ADA-compliant ramp to the stream. The placement of a number of large outcropping rocks in the stream along with ten tons of smaller river rock, make this water feature both inviting and challenging for youth of all ages. The dilapidated pop bottle greenhouse was removed due to it’s poor condition and use of non-natural materials.
Work continued in November on the site preparation, and saw the removal of 16 large (damaged, sick, or dead) trees in the Outdoor Playscape area. This was an important step in opening up the site for construction and removing potential hazards. Local sawyer Allen Magsig harvested some of these timbers and milled them on site into timbers and boards for reuse as materials in construction of houses and other buildings. It was a win-win as the milling of this felled timber also provided a cost savings for the park. More site preparation in December occurred with the initial layout and excavation of the areas for the new natural play equipment. Two large sections of 42″ diameter pipe were donated by Northern Concrete Pipe on Centennial Ave., allowing for the creation of a dirt hill with a tunnel.
The project continued on schedule as the new play equipment arrived from the well known German playground manufacturer, Richter Spielgeräte GmbH, in two large shipping containers in early March, which were unloaded at the site. Unfortunately, a 3-month delay due to the pandemic halted work on the project, and it wasn’t until early July that the specialty construction crew (Corby Associates) was able to travel from their homes in New Jersey and New York to finally complete the installation. This new play area now incorporates a large ADA-accessible basket swing, a rope nest with roof for “hanging out”, two different triangular tower structures with various rope bridge connectors, and a very large “timberfall” structure that looks like a log pile with an integrated rope net. These five natural timber elements were constructed using two types of specialty woods, Mountain Larch and Robinia (Black Locust), which are well known for their water and rot resistance and low splinter rate. To top it all off, 325 yards of IPEMA certified playground mulch from Renewed Outdoors in Perrysburg was placed 12″ thick around all of the new equipment as a safety precaution for fall protection.
A new, oversized sandbox was completed by Olander staff recently and features 20 tons of yellow beach sand ringed with Indiana limestone slabs. This design ties the play area to the Stream Exploration Area. Upcoming additions to the sandbox will include a 6 to 8 foot long sand table to help provide an equivalent experience for those persons with physical disabilities.
The Outdoor Playscape is now open, but work continues on creating formal borders for mulched areas and the implementation of crushed limestone paths between the equipment for ADA compatibility. This second phase of the project, over 2 years in the making, is expected to be completed with the final task of planting of new trees next spring.

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