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Texas State Parks are opening new natural play areas for children and people with disabilities to play and connect with nature.
Latino kids in Texas (39.1% Latino), and across the country, lack safe outdoor places to play and be active, which is known as a nature deficit disorder. Families struggle to find green space that is both fun and appropriate for all age ranges. Particularly Latino families, which are often multigenerational.
Childhood development leaders, architects, educators and urban planners worked together to design plans for natural playscapes in various outdoor spaces, like state parks, local parks, zoos, and botanical gardens to better engage kids and families with nature.
Natural playscapes are designed to be built using natural materials and include boulders, log features, grassy slopes, mud kitchens, ropes, sand boxes, scaled trails, sticks, bales of hay, streams, butterfly gardens, and more.
“We can create extraordinary places for children to discover themselves and the world around them,” writes designer Rusty Keeler, according to one source.
Government Canyon State Natural area, located just outside of San Antonio (63.2% Latino), is Texas’ largest urban state natural area.
Since everything is bigger in Texas, it makes sense that the largest urban natural area should have a natural playscape.
With initial seed money provided by the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, the Friends of Government Canyon State Natural Area raised more than $100,000 to install a natural playscape and a 1.25 mile ADA accessible nature loop trail.
“Since we’re a state natural area and not a park, we were motivated to provide something that was not the typical swings-and-slides playground, but rather something that would engage children in more of a natural-type setting,” says Park Superintendent Chris Holm, according to one source.