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Mehaffey Park Playground, Loveland, Colo.
Landscape Architecture by Logan Simpson // By Michael Miyamoto, LASN


The landscape architecture firm of Logan Simpson designed the Mahaffey Park Playground in Colorado. Rock walls offer varying climbing challenges for several age groups. Di Giacomo Artisan Rocks manufactured the individual rocks for the wall; Colorado Hardscapes, of Denver, assembled the climbing wall. Colorado Hardscapes also created two fallen log tunnels where kids can crawl through and peek out of hollowed-out knots and test their skill on a fallen log balance beam. Access to the top of the large climbing wall is possible by stairs on either side of the wall, as well as a spiraling, accessible walkway. Descent from the large climbing wall is possible by a 10-foot-high spiral slide, made by Columbia Cascade. Poligon Structures manufactured the large fabric shade structure in the far left of the photo.
Photo credit: Logan Simpson

Logan Simpson, of Fort Collins, Colo., led the landscape architecture for Mehaffey Park, a new 63-acre recreation and leisure site in Loveland. The design stays true to the nature and history of Colorado, incorporating public art that references the 1860s Overland Trail, fruit orchards like those that settlers established in the area, and native and durable materials to encourage interactive and explorative play. ECI Site Construction Management, the general contractor, brought on specialized team members to help, including Colorado Hardscapes.

The 3.5-acre nature-inspired playground is nestled within rock climbing walls. To achieve the goal of an all-natural, rugged terrain, a rope and wood bridge connects the top of the climbing features to a prefabricated tree house.


Tatonka Playgrounds installed the poured-in-place rubber safety surface, while Bedrock Slingers put in the engineered wood fiber safety surface, also called Fibar.
Photo credit: Logan Simpson

The playground was originally designed with large, stacked natural rock retaining and climbing walls. However, the construction feasibility, aesthetics and cost made it prohibitive to go this route. The team worked with the rock artisans at Colorado Hardscapes to help create these features. Di Giacomo Artisan Rocks matched the natural stone retaining walls used throughout the site, as well as nearby rock formations in the surrounding foothills.

Colorado Hardscapes' rock designer, Karen Keyes, created a maquette, or a precisely scaled model, of the design. The maquette of the fabricated rock features helped in visualizing the climbing elements and making final adjustments, said Jana McKenzie, of Logan Simpson.


Children can climb the stairs, the walkway or the outside of the rock outcrop, and then run back and forth across a rope and wood bridge manufactured by InCord. The bridge connects to a custom-made tree house built by Landscape Structures. The climbing wall and spiraling walkway overlook the route of the historic Overland Trail, which is subtly marked with artwork, and gaps in the topography and shrub beds.
Photo credit: Logan Simpson

Colorado Hardscapes installed the concrete and steel rocks. They weathered the surfaces of the rocks to match nearby formations.

"The playground climbing wall and waterfall are a key feature of Mehaffey Park and draws hundreds of visitors daily during the summer," said Janet Meisel-Burns, project manager, city of Loveland. "Because of its southern orientation, the climbing wall is warm and inviting all year round."

Additionally, traditional play equipment, including spinners, swings, a tube slide from the rocks, and oxen spring riders leading a toddler Conestoga wagon feature, engages children.


From the face of the rock wall, water spills from a weir into a streambed made of Sandscape concrete with embedded cobble. The streambed wraps around the tree house. During the warm summer months, the waterfall turns on every 20 minutes for approximately five minutes. Kids of all ages wait for the water to suddenly appear out of the rock wall, and experiment with the sheet of water as it falls.
Photo credit: City of Loveland

Native boulders in the rubber poured-in-place safety surfacing provide play opportunities and incidental seating. In addition to picnic shelters near the playground, a fabric tensile shade structure provides relief from the sun. The landscape design includes native species on the hillsides and in perimeter areas that do not receive heavy foot traffic. Turf, shrubs, perennials and trees near the edges of the playground, provide visual interest and shade. Trees and shrub beds in the play area were strategically located to avoid the natural flow of children running from one play event to the next.

"The value Mehaffey Park brings to the community is immeasurable," McKenzie said. "It brings families, neighbors and strangers together to have fun, picnic, play, exercise and enjoy the natural setting. We are very pleased with the positive feedback from the community, and excited about the incredible amount of use it is experiencing." Design Team
Logan Simpson landscape architects and designers: Kurt Friesen, PLA; Jana McKenzie, FASLA, PLA; Kelly Smith; Steve Sigler, PLA.
General contractor: ECI Site Construction Mgnt.
Owner: city of Loveland, Colo.
Project manager: Janet Meisel-Burns, RLA, ASLA, city of Loveland, Colo.


Plant Pallet

As seen in LASN magazine, April 2017 Playground.

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November 19, 2019, 10:48 pm PDT

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