Metro Vancouver operates a regional parks system that is made up of 22 regional parks, 3 regional park reserves, 2 ecological conservancy areas and 5 regional greenways – approximately 13,500 hectares of protected land. The goal of Metro Vancouver Regional Parks is to connect people with nature while protecting the natural values of its parks.
Metro Vancouver Regional Parks understand the importance of designing spaces that inspire connection with nature for children. In a growing and changing region, many children are now missing the deep, widespread, and lasting bond to nature that wild childhoods used to nurture. The creation of purpose-built nature discovery areas can provide a deeper connection with nature by creating challenges and a fascination about the wonders of the natural world.
These areas are unstructured and inclusive and designed to stimulate a deeper connection with nature and also provide inspiration for the stewards of tomorrow.
In March 2019 a new 6000 m2 nature discovery area at Aldergrove Regional Park was unveiled. This family-focused nature play area was inspired by the geology, natural history and landscape character of the park. This unstructured area creates a place where children of all ages and abilities can connect with nature by exploring and manipulating natural materials through a range of tactile and sensory experiences.
The nature discovery area draws playfully from the park’s thematic landscape, which holds stories of its unique geological and natural history. For example, the story of the park’s deglaciation inspired the inclusion of a rocky lookout knoll, as well as a boulder amphitheatre. The amphitheatre, which overlooks Pepin Brook, creates a valuable teaching space for Metro Vancouver’s park interpreters and partners who lead nature-based school and group programs within the park.
A carefully-crafted cedar root wad takes pride of place in the sand area. Children can experience the beauty of this feature in a tactile and exploratory way.
Further inspiration is drawn from the park’s wildlife. A beaver lodge has been created where children are encouraged to “build like a beaver” and construct a lodge or dam. This form of loose-parts play encourages cooperation, problem solving, and appreciation of the qualities of natural materials.
The forest den takes its inspiration from coyotes and raccoons. Children can roll logs and look for bugs and are encouraged to “howl, yelp and yip” at the coyote howling station. The whole area has been structured with new trail connections, picnicking and gathering spaces as well as significant new plantings.
In the next phase, the nature discovery trail and wetland will open up an area of the park currently not accessible to the public. The trail will focus on a new wetland, taking advantage of an existing wet area to create a new environmental feature which enhances the park’s existing natural landscape and biodiversity and provides even more opportunities to connect children with nature.
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The park is located at 27240 8 Ave, Aldergrove, BC
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lydia Mynott is a park planner with Metro Vancouver Regional Parks. She is a Registered Landscape Architect with twenty years planning and design experience in British Columbia and the United Kingdom. Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Architecture from the University of Liverpool and a Diploma and Master of Arts in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield.
Lydia is passionate about connecting children with nature and the benefits of this relationship. Her work focuses on balancing the protection of natural areas and creating innovative opportunities for public access and enjoyment of nature.
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