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Peter Pan Takes Flight o'er the Colorado High Plains

The Architerra Group, Inc.

The "Neverwood" section of the Westminster, Colo. playground presents a hollow log constructed of shotcrete, plus a tree trunk and "Neverpeak" climbing structure made of glass-fiber reinforced concrete. Locally quarried boulders enclose the playground and allow for additional climbing and seating. The new evergreens on site are 'Densata' Black Hills spruce and 'Iseli Fastigiate' Bosnian pine.
Rain bird
Rain bird
Came America Teak Warehouse

The city of Westminster, Colo., pop. 108,850, a northwest suburb of Denver, sits on the high plains near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The Westminster Historical Society notes that before the 1850s, the area was dotted with small, marshy ponds and largely inhabited by buffalo and antelope, although "there is strong evidence that the Arapahoe Indians maintained a semipermanent encampment in the vicinity of Gregory Hill."

The city's most prominent and recognized landmark is Westminster University of Colorado, aka Westminster Castle, sitting atop Crown Point, the highest rise in the county. It was the vision of New Yorker philanthropist Henry Mayhem for a Presbyterian College. He brought in New York architect Stanford White to design the main building. The buildings have a facade of sandstone quarried in Colorado's Red Rocks region.

The plaza plan shows the early design inspiration for the major elements for Westminster Center Park. The hub is a central plaza with Westminster, England-inspired designs: a Big Ben-like obelisk, street grid and the Thames (cobble paving and spray elements) flowing across both sides of the plaza. The Peter Pan inspired Neverland-themed playground is on the northeast axis. Kids can play pirates, climb, slide and even get wet in this imaginative playground. Picnic areas and shelters are close by the playground, so adult types can watch the action, feed their appetites and refuel the kids' motors. The southwest axis features more open areas, an amphitheatre and performance center, what you might call the adult elements, you know, for those kids that grew up. It happens.

The first class attended what the founders hoped to be the "Princeton of the West" in September 1908. In 1920, the Pillar of Fire Ministries purchased Westminster College. Today it is the campus for Belleview Christian Schools and AM 91 Radio, both affiliated with the Pillar of Fire.

The city of Westminster is celebrating its 100th anniversary throughout 2011.

A precast concrete lion's head water feature is set on the back wall of the performance shelter.

A Central Gathering Place
Westminster Center Park opened in the summer of 2010 and has become a favored destination of the local community.

The 10-acre park site was deeded to the city as part of the public land dedication associated with an adjacent commercial development. In 2007, the city started initial planning for a signature city park. Through an extensive public outreach, the city staff developed a program for the park that included:

  • A central plaza gathering place
  • An interactive water feature
  • A performance amphitheater and shelter
  • A playground
  • Walking paths
  • Lighting
  • Water conserving landscaping
  • Areas for future sculptures

The city staff and the consultant team worked together to create a site master plan that incorporated the various program elements, fit the topography of the site and responded to the surrounding area. Additional public meetings were held to gather input and keep the community informed about the progress of the project.

The Thames River paving is constructed of blue crushed glass and stained Lithocrete. The glass is tumbled smooth for bare feet comfort. The interactive water feature jets are integrated into the paving. A trench drain (Urban Accessories) encircles the plaza. The street grid is made with sandscape-textured concrete, with sandblasted and stained street names with 6" letters in an Arial narrow font. City Hall and the Clock Tower are viewed in the background (left). The bell tower is symbolic of Big Ben in Westminster, England. In 1988, Westminster topped off the 14-story bell tower with a pyramid of steel mesh. The city of Westminster, Colo. is celebrating its 100th anniversary throughout 2011.

Geometry Design
The park site is located across 92nd Avenue north of city hall. The site drops approximately 20 feet from south to north. East of the site are single-family residences, with multifamily residential on the north side and commercial development to the west. The formal geometry of city hall is projected onto the site with the program elements organized around the central gathering space. The central space is also positioned to take advantage of the magnificent views of the Rocky Mountains to the west. As 92nd Avenue is a busy four-lane street, the site-grading plan accommodates a future underpass connection to city hall. The site has curvilinear walks around large lawn panels for informal park uses. The walks were laid out to accommodate the installation of future sculptures similar to the art walk at city hall. As this park was anticipated as a popular destination, off-street parking is provided on two sides of the park.

The bubbling boulders are constructed of glass-fiber reinforced concrete by Colorado Hardscapes of Denver. Custom shade structures flank the plaza.

Westminster, England Design Theme
The design team reached across the Atlantic to find inspiration for the park design. The sister city of Westminster, Colo. is the eponymous Westminster, England, a central borough of London located along the Thames River. The 14-story clock tower at city hall was designed to symbolize Big Ben. A paving pattern reflecting the Westminster, England street grid helps organize the central gathering space. A River Thames water feature activates the space.

Located in the center of the plaza is a vertical monument reminiscent of Big Ben, which maintains a visual connection to the city hall clock tower. The theme for the playground is the Peter Pan fable, which originated in Kensington Gardens near Westminster, England.

At the center of the park plaza is an obelisk of stainless steel and stone emulating the "Big Ben" clock tower at city hall. The groundplane depicts the streets of Westminster, England. The monument's colored concrete base blends with the plaza street grid and offers additional seating.

In refining the Peter Pan idea further, the design team settled on a "Neverland" playground theme. The interface with the central plaza is a Westminster streetscape and roofscape with Big Ben, the London Bridge and the Darling House. The rest of the playground includes other elements of the Peter Pan fable:

  • "Neverpeak Mountain" is a custom designed climbing structure and built-in slide constructed of glass-fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC).
  • "Neverwood" includes a hollow log and hollow tree trunk also built of GFRC.
  • A pirate's ship play structure and sandstone crocodile comprise the "Pirate's Lagoon."
  • The rubberized play surface includes a streetscape tricycle track and symbolically carries the Thames River water feature into the lagoon.
  • Locally quarried boulders enclose the playground area and allow for additional climbing and seating.

Big Ben, London Bridge and the Darling House (home to the children in the Peter Pan story) play structures is surrounded by a rubberized tricycle track that completes the miniature streetscape.

The family of structures includes a performance shelter, shade structures and restroom facility. The brick colors and patterns match those of city hall. The performance shelter has a curved brick wall as a backdrop for performers. The backside of this wall is also the source of the water feature. The structures have stainless steel bands with cut out patterns and LED lighting to create visual interest after sunset. The structures are located to the north and south of the central plaza to frame the views to the west. The performance shelter and amphitheater were modeled in Google SketchUp to minimize the impact of the setting sun on the audience and performers.

The playground is themed after the Peter Pan character of Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie. Pirate's Lagoon comprises a pirate ship play structure that includes dual slides (no plank), masts/sails and even a crow's nest, plus a sandstone crocodile (designed and fabricated by Tribble Stone).

Integration of Water
It was important for the interactive water feature to activate the center plaza space. The design team worked to incorporate the water feature into the overall park theme. Four precast concrete lion head sculptures on the back wall of the performance shelter spit water into a small pool. The water then flows symbolically through the plaza as the Thames River. This paving was designed with stained Lithocrete concrete paving which is made with vibrant blue glass to sparkle in the bright Colorado sunlight. Randomly activated water jets along the river are a huge hit with the kids. Water bubbles out of boulders into a small trough for younger children to explore. The water leads to the playground where it again flows symbolically as blue colored rubberized surfacing.

The mechanical system for the water feature was designed to minimize maintenance and maximize use. The components are located in a separate room of the restroom facility. The design team recognized the water elements would be treated by the community as a "free water park" and designed the system to accommodate huge demand.

The "Neverpeak Mountain" climbing structure, designed by di Giacomo, and constructed by Colorado Hardscapes, has a built-in slide and shade structure.

As Westminster, Colo. is in a semi-arid climate, it was important for the design team to conserve potable water as much as possible. The water feature has minimal pools to reduce evaporation loss. A wind sensor is located on the restroom roof to automatically shut down the water feature on windy days. The irrigation system taps into the city's reclaimed water system.

Drought tolerant and salt tolerant plant materials were specified. Reclaimed water tends to have high salt concentrations. A water quality facility was unobtrusively integrated into the low point of the site to treat stormwater before it leaves the site.

Children enjoy climbing on and through the "Neverwood" hollow log and tree trunk.

Project Budget
The initial city budget was not adequate to complete this signature community park with high-quality design elements. The design team discussed phasing options, but the city decided to apply for grants to supplement their budget. They were successful in obtaining grants from the Arapahoe Co. Open Space program and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO-state lottery funds). The design team prepared the construction documents with several alternates to provide the city with maximum flexibility. The poor economy resulted in very low bids and allowed the city to award the entire project. The underpass connection to city hall may be implemented in the future, depending on funding availability.

The successful collaboration between city staff and the consultant team resulted in a signature community park that has been heavily used since it opened in May 2010. On any given hot summer day, families can be found setting up their towels and blankets as early as 6:00 a.m. in anticipation of cooling off in the water feature. Special events and recreation programs have been booked in the performance shelter. Frisbees and soccer balls can be seen floating across the informal turf areas. The completed park has realized a long-term vision of the city and given nearby residents a gathering place.

The central gathering space at Westminster Center Park, in Westminster, Colo. is positioned to take advantage of the magnificent views of the Rocky Mountains to the west.

About the Firm
The Architerra Group, Inc. was formed in 1999 to provide landscape architectural consulting services to public sector clients. Their work includes planning and design services for parks, athletic facilities, open spaces, multi-use trails, streetscapes, urban spaces, educational facilities, drainage and environmental restoration projects. The staff includes two RLAs who have an active role in all projects and possess over 40 years of experience. The support staff is highly educated and trained in the profession. The staff is also actively involved in promoting landscape architecture through ASLA, CLARB and in the local community through numerous volunteer projects. The firm has won numerous ASLA Colorado Chapter awards for planning merit, design merit, land stewardship and the President's Award of Excellence.

The performance shelter, stage and amphitheater of stepped Bluegrass lawn panels and concrete steps accommodate musical performances, recitals and other special events.


Vendor: Chevo Studios, Denver

  • Obelisk
  • Light panels at structures
  • Fountain heads, precast concrete

Vendor: Colorado Hardscapes, Denver


  • Sandscape Texture Concrete "Capital Hill"
  • Sandscape Texture Concrete "Sandy Pebble"
  • Sandscape Texture Concrete "Sandy Pebble" with color stain by Semco
  • Lithocrete, blue glass (50%) textured and stained with color stain by Semco

Vendor: Colorado Hardscapes, Denver

Playground Equipment
Custom glass fiber reinforced concrete structures

  • Neverpeak Mountain
  • Hollow Log Crawl
  • Hollow Tree
  • Bubbling boulders

Vendor: Colorado Hardscapes, Denver

Custom Play Structures

  • Pirate Ship
  • London Bridge
  • Big Ben
  • Darling House

Landscape Structures
Vendor: Rocky Mountain Recreation, Littleton, Colo.

Custom sandstone crocodile
Vendor: Tribble Stone, Boulder, Colo.

Rubberized playground surfacing
Vendor: Robert Kirk, Denver

Site Furnishings

  • Benches: DuMor, 162 with backs, 145 without backrests
  • Picnic tables, custom: DuMor
  • Trash receptacles: DuMor

Vendor: Rocky Mountain Recreation, Littleton, Colo.

Drain grates

  • Urban Accessories "Title Waves"

Vendor: Recreation Plus, Ltd., Golden, Colo.

Architectural Area Lighting, City of Industry, Calif.

  • Pedestrian lighting:


  • Academy 656 (red) brick
  • Misty 751C (ivory) brick

Summit Brick Co., Pueblo

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November 18, 2019, 10:57 am PDT

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