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Berens Park West Playground Renovation

By Jerry Pask, Landscape Architect/Park Planner; Colleen McCarty, Asst. Park Planner, Elmhurst Park District

A new play area in Elmhurst, Illinois' Berens Park was created to meet updated regulations. The primary play structure (Landscape Structures) features a spiral slide, roller slide and a double slide, and a fire pole, a boulder with outrigging, and a rock wall for climbing. Thirty-five hundred square feet of poured-in-place safety surfacing were installed for the project, most of it beneath the main play structure.

The need for a new Berens Park playground, located in the west corner of a popular athletic complex in Elmhurst, Illinois, provided an opportunity for an active play environment with elements unique to the area. An Elmhurst Park District team designed a custom playground with up-to-date technology and play features, ensuring compliance with new playground safety standards and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility guidelines.

The play area had an existing retaining wall at its south end with a path leading to the top, approximately four feet off the ground, which designers incorporated into the renovation. Before the new equipment was installed, non-profit group Kids Around the World removed the existing play structures, which will be restored and installed in an underdeveloped country that does not have playgrounds for children.


Railings line the path built into the retaining wall for ADA compliance. The raised walkway connects to ramps in the main structure four feet above the safety surfacing.

The playground was initially designed around a large tree that shaded the entire area, but the tree was irreparably damaged during a winter storm and had to be removed. The park district, determined to maximize the natural landscape, decided to tree spade a new six-inch diameter Autumn Blaze maple in place of the previous tree to reclaim the shade benefits.

The main structure features an elevated walkway that encircles the maple, connecting to two ramps that lead to the path at the top of the retaining wall. The main structure also boasts various types of slides including a roller slide, spiral slide, and a double slide and climbers including a fire pole, boulder with outrigging, and a rock wall to give the kids unique play options. Five new trees were added for natural shade, and ground components were installed including a dragonfly seesaw where users lean back into the seat instead of sitting upright, as well as a stand-up spinner.


The preschool area (ages 2-5) features a Weevos structure that connects to the sandbox via a small raised bridge. About 3,000 square feet of artificial turf with a sand infill was installed instead of poured-in-place safety surfacing to ease the border between the sandbox and the play area, which also features handicap-accessible spring riders.

The preschool area (ages 2-5) features a Weevos structure by Landscape Structures. Usually the younger kids want to play in the older kids' area, but in this case, the older kids were fascinated with the Weevos. The equipment has a contemporary look, with completely redesigned climbers and panels.

The Weevos structure also features a small, arched bridge that connects to the sandbox, where children can perform their own mini-excavations with Superscoop diggers. Though sandboxes are always popular, upkeep presented an ongoing challenge for the park district, since they are messy and difficult to maintain. To limit sand migration throughout the playground, the design team decided on artificial turf safety surfacing in the preschool area instead of poured in place safety surfacing. The turf has a sand infill mix that conceals sand better than poured in place surfacing. Ground components include a handicap-accessible convertible spring toy and jet spring toy to mimic the planes flying overhead to O'Hare Airport.


Superscoop diggers were installed in the sandbox, which is bordered by the preschool area and ramped retaining wall. Beyond the concrete path, three bays of various arch swings are connected to make the most of the available space.

The swings presented another obstacle for the park district. Residents typically want more swings, which take up a lot of space and are more expensive due to the extra surfacing required. The team solved the space concern by connecting the various arch swings into one large unit, including one bay of 6-12-year-old swings, one bay of preschool swings, and one tire swing at the center.

Playground safety is always a top priority. Because the playground is in close proximity to the street, a split rail fence was installed between the street and the playground. There is also a safety handrail between the path and retaining wall to prevent falls. Site amenities include seven recycled plastic benches, a game table, a picnic table, a custom half circle bench, and loop bike racks. A new drinking fountain located adjacent to the playground includes an upright fountain, accessible drinking fountain, and pet bowl for dog walkers.

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November 18, 2019, 11:51 am PDT

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