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Reunion Trails Park, Henderson, Nev.
By Michael Miyamoto, LASN / Landscape Architecture by Southwick Landscape Architects, Henderson, Nev.


A developer was supposed to build a new playground as part of a residential subdivision in Henderson, Nev., but the project was put on the back burner because of the economic turmoil of the late 2000s. It was resurrected a few years ago, as the Clark County School District, the city of Henderson and Southwick Landscape Architects worked jointly to see it through. Reunion Trails Park is the newest addition to Henderson's park system. Since it opened in December 2011, Reunion Trails has been a popular recreational stopover for locals.

Reunion Trails Park in Henderson, Nev., is the result of a joint effort between a state agency, a municipality and Southwick Landscape Architects, the lead designer.

Located just south of Las Vegas, Reunion Trails was built on part of a 14-acre parcel. Ten acres are owned by the Clark County School District and slated for a new elementary school. The remaining four acres are owned by the city of Henderson. Most of the playground sits on the city-owned portion, with the exception of the exercise equipment, which was placed on the school district's property.



If Reunion Trails appears to have a futuristic look, it's probably because of the playground equipment. It has electronic devices similar to video games. Sun Ports made the shade shelters, and Miracle Playgrounds manufactured the traditional playground equipment and safety surfacing.

"The main goal was to design all of the permanent facilities on the four-acre city portion, and keep other elements on the school property usable but easily removable if and when the elementary school is built," said Stanton Southwick, owner of Southwick Landscape Architects.

A developer of a nearby residential subdivision was supposed to have built the playground, but the economic turmoil of a few years ago forced the project to the back burner. Eventually, the city of Henderson took over the four-acre portion and developed Reunion Trails after a series of neighborhood meetings. Along the way, Southwick Landscape Architects was hired to oversee the landscaping design and build.



An M.C. Escher theme was emphasized for Reunion Trails. Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) is a famous graphic artist. Artist Robin Brailsford incorporated three mosaic-tile lizard patterns, each 14 feet long, into the hardscape. T.B. Penick and Sons installed the hardscape surface, which features colored concrete with Lithocrete and colored glass-seeded finishes.

"Our design team focused on providing the greatest quantity of amenities for the largest range of users as possible to help pacify the neighbors who had gone for years without the promised park," Southwick said.

The 10-acre school portion is mainly an open grass play area with a single backstop in one corner. Non-irrigated native revegetation surrounds the perimeter of the grass area. A dog park is also on the school property, and the lighting system is solar so it can be easily removed and reused when the new elementary school is built. Reunion Trails serves as a central starting point for three converging trail systems. Since its opening in December 2011, Reunion Trails has become one of the most popular parks in the city of Henderson. Southwick developed Reunion Trails around an M.C. Escher theme. There are many Escher-style patterns in the walkways, walls, playground equipment and site furniture. Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) is one of the world's most famous graphic artists. His art is enjoyed by millions of people all over the world.



Hardy Construction Inc., the contractor, built a labyrinth, wavy pipe walls, a form-lined planter, and retaining and sedimentary walls. Waterplay Solutions Corp, a supplier of aquatic recreation equipment, manufactured all the products in the splash pad (right-hand side of the photo). Date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) stand in the background.

"We worked with an artist who developed three mosaic tile lizard patterns, each 14 feet long, in the hardscape," Southwick said. "The three mosaic patterns represent three lizards native to the Mojave Desert. There are a total of 10 lizard mosaics that each work their way in from a different part of the site and join into a central, M.C. Escher inspired, interlocking mosaic." Robin Brailsford, of Brailsford Public Art, holds a master's degree in sculpture and a patent for LithoMosaic, a method of casting mosaics within monolithic concrete pours.

Another feature not seen in most playgrounds is the electronic devices in the hardware of the playground equipment. These devices are similar to video games. "It basically puts the child into the middle of the action," Southwick said.

The electronic components allow the playground equipment manufacturer to monitor the games through WiFi, and to add new games remotely on a regular basis. Some games have children moving through the playground equipment and touching lighted buttons. Others require balancing on a spinning wheel. Some are based on teamwork. Names of the various games give a little insight to the activity involved: Color Catch, Marble Drop, Pump It, Capture, Tug of Time and Beat Master.

Usage statistics from the electronic games show that in the first year the park was open, over 113,000 kids played over 91,000 games. It also made Reunion Trails one of the most popular playground facilities of its kind in the country, Southwick said.

Southwick Landscape Architects came up with other "artistic elements," including a labyrinth, wavy pipe walls, a form-lined planter, retaining and sedimentary walls, and umbrella shade structures. T.B. Penick and Sons installed the hardscape surface, which features colored concrete with Lithocrete and colored glass-seeded finishes in complex patterns. There is also a splash pad with a reverse waterfall, water cannons, ground geysers, jet streams, loop cannons, water bugs, doughnut sprays and water tunnels. It even features a raised river element where items can be floated from one end to the other.

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October 17, 2019, 9:21 am PDT

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