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Church Playground of Biblical Proportions
By Lesanne Weller, ASLA, Associate Landscape Architect, The Architerra Group, Littleton, Colo.


The Architerra Group donated pro bono designs for the updated St. James Presbyterian Church preschool playground in Littleton, Colo. The playground features a Noah's Ark play structure with 11 play events for a varied range of ages and physical abilities. Other elements are a tricycle track, a playhouse, a sandbox, a Mt. Ararat climbing rock, four animal spring riders,omega replica watches two shade structures, an outdoor classroom, a community garden, new fencing and new landscaping.
Photos: The Architerra Group

In 2008, a routine safety inspection of the playground at St. James Presbyterian Church in Littleton, Colo., showed the church playground failed to meet state safety standards. The church facilities committee began working with a playground equipment manufacturer to select replacement equipment for the playground.

Church parishioner Dean Pearson was asked to review plans for the new playground. Dean was a good person to ask, as he is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and a principal at the Architerra Group in Littleton. The playground was located on the opposite side of the church from the preschool classrooms, which required children, parents and staff to walk around the building and through a parking lot to access it. The playground equipment presented entrapment and entanglement dangers for the young children. The playground was also not accessible for all children.

In reviewing the plans and speaking further with the church facilities committee, Pearson realized that in addition to replacing the playground equipment, this was a great opportunity to rethink the playground location and design. Pearson wanted to create a playground that would be functional, safe and serve the church for many years. He suggested developing a Biblical theme for the playground.


Careful site planning and landscape design created a variety of flexible spaces for play, games and structured learning programs. Here, a game of Simon Says is taking place in the amphitheater.

The biggest challenge was the budget. The original budget was $45,000. Once the church members and facilities committee agreed to redesign and move the playground, they set about fundraising $150,000 for the playground improvements, which included two grants.

The Architerra Group donated their planning, design, cost estimating, construction documents and construction administration time. The landscape architects were able to help the church create a vision for the space and show them how to implement it. The landscape architects helped the church determine the best location for the new playground. It was necessary to remove a portion of the parking lot immediately adjacent to the preschool classrooms to accommodate the new design.

Working closely with the facilities committee and preschool staff, the landscape architects developed a safe, functional, relevant and fun playground design. Church members, a structural engineer and a construction project manager also contributed time and resources. In addition to the pro bono design fees, a portion of the construction was done by church volunteers, which helped reduce construction costs.

As seen in LASN magazine, July 2016 Stewardship.

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October 23, 2019, 10:28 pm PDT

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