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The Community Recovery Garden Concept

By Stephen Kelly, LASN senior editor (really senior, “born in a log cabin”). The concepts about community recovery gardens are from Rebecca Beach, CFO and co-owner of Play Mart, Inc.

Cost of Wisconsin
Playworld Came America

This graphic concept design of a Recovery Community Garden, realized in the photo, is by Dennis Beach, ASLA. The play includes an accessible preschool play area, a three bay swing set and boundaryless playset. There are sheltered spaces for family picnics, sunny benches, quiet spaces, vegetable gardens and flower and herb gardens for attracting birds and butterflies. Infrastructure includes raised beds with retaining walls, arbors, gazebos, shade and shelter from the heat, harvest tables, benches and tables.
Photo: Play Mart

Recently one of my fellow editors made an intercom announcement at work that it was time to sing “Happy Birthday” to me and eat cake (pie, actually). He joked I was born in a log cabin. I guess he was implying I was old enough to have crossed the Great Plains with my folks in a covered wagon, that my Pa felled trees and built us a cabin.

Well, my Pa did take the family across the Great Plains—in a 1952 Ford—from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay to a little mountain town in Colorado. We lived for a short time in a log cabin with a wood stove, then moved to another log cabin and lived there about a year—all four kids in the same bedroom—until Pa gutted a single story home of wood on a hill, rebuilt it and put a second story on it.

And yes, as a six-year old, sun or snow, I walked to school, through the woods, down a hill, across a creek…we roamed those woods and hills…day and night.

What Makes an Outdoor Space More Appealing?

While many kids of my generation spent most of their free time out of doors, the general sense is the kids today are glued to the computer screen or TV. Along these lines, I recently received an article from Play Mart for consideration in LASN that asked: “What makes an outdoor space more appealing than the TV?” The article explains how to design an outdoor space to get kids away from the computer or game console and actually breath some outdoor air, feel the sun’s warmth on their skins and perhaps even look at a tree. Alas, it’s sad that many kids are so disconnected from nature.

The article proposed a design called “Community Recovery Garden Concept—Recovery of Health, Community and Life.” This design was “outdoor places equipped with accessible paths that wind throughout, creating a network of dynamic interactive communal spaces for walkers, joggers, infants in strollers, bicycles, tricycles and wheelchairs. Places that are full of rich sensory sights, smells, sounds and full of life…to keep people coming back and spending more of their life outside reconnecting with people and nature.”

This play equipment is made from recycled structural plastic (RSP) using reclaimed #2 high-density polyethylene (HDPE), or to put it more simply, playground equipment from milk jugs.
Photo: Play Mart

Outdoor Spaces for All Ages, Abilities

To paraphrase the article, outdoor spaces require an infrastructure that supports people of all abilities and ages. A playground alone, even a spanking clean new one, without accessibility for all children or a bench for Ma and Pa to rest on or to gossip with the neighbors, is just not going to hack it. “A flat ball park with a fence is sufficient for the kids during the game, but what is there to keep anyone interested after the game is over?” the article asks.

More from the article: “People need outdoor environments that provide sheltered spaces for family picnics, sunny benches for resting or observing active children on safe play sets, quiet spaces for those needing some solitude, vegetable gardens to raise nutritious food, flower and herb gardens for attracting birds and butterflies.

“Recovering something that was wasted? Reclaimed wasted areas on the perimeters of ballparks, playgrounds or wasted pockets of unused land near residential areas can be developed into communal gardens. This is an efficient use of land, water and people resources and yet another way of bringing people together. The therapeutic value of people seeing life spring from seeds and growing from just adding water and sunshine is a miracle in itself. There are undeniable joys in eating or sharing a tomato you have grown yourself. Small children and even adults can learn the wonder of growing things and the biology of interdependence of plants, soil, insects, birds and bees. But even the communal garden needs infrastructure. Raised beds with retaining walls, arbors, gazebos, shade and shelter from the heat, harvest tables, benches and tables provide places for people to not only grow their food but share recipes and share life.

“Those in the community with experience in gardening, food preparation and storage can share their skills and develop meaningful relationships at the same time. Community gardens can stretch family budgets and sharing extra produce with others families creates a sharing community based on caring for each other’s needs.

“The restoring of American communities to a better condition begins with recognizing the value of creating an infrastructure that invites people of all ages and abilities to come outside and get connected to each other and benefit from the healing properties of nature.”


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December 11, 2019, 1:16 pm PDT

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