Dundee Township Breaks Ground on Unique Nature Play Area For Kids

Dundee Township Breaks Ground on Unique Nature Play Area For Kids

(CREDIT: Dundee Township)

With the extreme cold temperatures of the past week, it might be a little hard to get your head around the idea of a nature playground for kids, but that’s exactly what’s on the minds of a lot of Dundee Township officials as 2017 approaches.

Dundee Township broke ground earlier this month for a unique play experience for children in the 50-acre Library Springs Open Space woodland directly behind the Dundee Library on Barrington Avenue in East Dundee.

This space, for children ages 3 to 8, was designed by Nilco Landscape Solutions of Woodstock. The trails and rock climbing features were installed by Prime Construction of Hampshire. Township staff and volunteers will continue adding features over the winter/spring as weather permits.

The township will hold a naming contest in April with the Grand Opening in May of 2017.

The free, unstructured play area reflects a national movement of “nature play” popularized by the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. This philosophy establishes that access to nature is essential to children’s health and well-being. An extensive body of research has identified “nature deficit disorder” as a serious health concern for children. Children who are disconnected from the natural world and deprived of unstructured play in nature can suffer from developmental impairment emotionally, scholastically and physically.

Township Supervisor Sue Harney says the open-space woodland is a natural fit for the township, which sponsors various school and youth field trips on open space sites.

“The kids love the outdoor experiences,” she said. “We want to expand the opportunities for more children to play outside with hands-on activities in an area made for them to build and explore.

Studies show that the average child spends seven-and-a-half hours daily in front of an electronic screen but only seven minutes playing outdoors

“Yet it’s been proven that unstructured play in nature helps to develop necessary skills for functioning in society such as independent thinking, creativity, leadership qualities, and social awareness,” Harney said. “This is a gap that the Township is addressing by setting aside a special child-safe place to let our kids use their imagination and natural objects to have fun.”

The play area is entered through an arch (to be constructed over the winter) with accessible, gravel-packed paths. With a curving loop trail-type design, the site’s trees, undergrowth, slopes and shaded seating become child-sized destination modules — climbing stones, a fort building area, art and music areas, hay bale tunnels, and log and stump balancing. Children can build their own structures using sticks, hay bales, loose stones and small branches. Strange rocks and old bones may show up at odd times.

In the spring, the township staff will add native plants to attract butterflies and birds. A sunny, grassy area can be used as a gathering place and outdoor classroom for up to 25 students and their parents.

The site was chosen, in part, for its proximity to the Dundee Library and the Rakow Center. The location will make it easy to extend a visit to the Library and Rakow Center with a time to play outdoors.

“My family spent many Sundays in the Colorado Rockies,” Harney said. “I loved playing outside as a kid. I hope every child who visits the Township Nature Park falls in love with the sticks, rocks. bones and bugs and develops a life-long connection with the outdoors.”

Library Director Roxane Bennett said the playground will perfectly compliment the reading experiences.

“We’re looking forward to the opening of this space and the chance to hold outdoor library programs that enhance the nature play experience,” she said.


  • The Grand Opening is planned for Spring of 2017.
  • The Nature Park was funded with tax dollars from Dundee Township and from money derived from the 1997 Open Space Bond Referendum.

Suggested Reading

  • Nature Play, a publication of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association

Nature Play Links