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Muckleshoot Child Development Center, Auburn, Washington

Project Manager: Hainline & Associates, Inc.
Playground Design: Buell Recreation
Narrative: Katie Lousier, BCI Burke Premier Play Environments

The 2-5 age play area at the Muckleshoot Child Development Center in Auburn, Washington features a Muckleshoot Train Station (BCI Burke), complete with locomotive, crawl-through tank car and 'dining car.' A ticket window, clock and departure/arrival schedule board add verisimilitude to the train station. A ramp leads up the play structure to an overlook. The station is made to fit in a compact 48' x 30' area, and has a top fall height of only 40 inches. This play structure, like the other compound structures, is covered by a fabric shade.
Images: BCI Burke and Buell Recreation

The story about the new playground project for the Muckleshoot Child Development Center in Auburn, Washington must begin with the extraordinary leadership and foresight by Emiley Montes, the center's division director, and teacher Justin Kettman. Their desire was to "maximize the play value" of the outdoor space for dozens of children, ages ranging from six weeks to 12 years old, while making improvements to all aspects of their playground.

The play area had a variety of elements: concrete pathways, walls, elevated mounds, natural grass areas, trees, shrubs and several manufactured play structures. These features had served the school well for over a decade, but several key issues led to seeking new alternatives. The primary concern for the old play area was the frequency of injuries: scrapes and bruises children incurred from falls onto the hard surfaces. The other problem was the challenge supervisors had in trying to keep a watchful eye over the children through the maze of obstacles and obstructions on the playground. The last issue was properly maintaining the place spaces, which was time consuming and costly--cleaning up the leaves from the trees, keeping the sidewalks free of sand, both safety issues, and mowing the grass.


The 'Nucleus', seen from two angles, is the largest play structure at the school, with 5" dia. posts, combining three side-by-side slides on one end, a smaller slide along one side, climbing elements and a tree house-like bridge. A large disc-like seat swing ('Volito') makes swinging a group activity. This freestanding swing is meant for the 2-12 year old set. Jim and Charlie Burpee of White River Fence in Auburn, Washington installed the play equipment.

In consultation with Charles Hartung, AIA, a project manager with Hainline & Associates, Inc., based in Seattle, the Muckleshoot Tribe leadership solicited input and ideas from several companies who specialized in designing and building public playgrounds. Eventually, the proposal submitted by Buell Recreation, LLC, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, was awarded in spring 2014.

Buell Recreation implemented their custom design for the campus that featured the visions of the school leadership. Doug Buell, president of Buell Recreation, has over 30 years experience in the parks and recreation industry.


This modern version of a seesaw allows four kids to teeter-totter, but clearly the most coveted seats are the duck and the turtle. A second seasaw, behind the fence, is a two-seater version.

As exclusive representatives for BCI Burke in Washington, Oregon Northern California and Northern Nevada, his talented team partners with organizations to dream, design and deliver unique playgrounds. The vision for this playground focused on a theme of elements found in nature, such as mountains, trees, water and sky that would serve as home to a multitude of age-appropriate play events spanning 25,000 sq. ft. and spread out over three individual play areas.


In the tot area, the activity panels for the 'Sound Garden' incorporate piano notes (you don't actually press the keys, but any of the 8 "buttons" below it), a snare drum (you hit this), a drum set (8 buttons) and a 'rain wheel' (you turn it to get the sound effects).

Demolition and site preparation was instrumental and key to a good foundation for the scope of work to follow. Greg Brock Dozing, LLC, Auburn, WA, employed a variety of specialized equipment and methods to both remove and bring in new materials within the confined spaces and limited access.


The primary concern for the previous play area was the frequency of scrapes and bruises incurred from falls onto hard surfaces. New equipment like the "Fireman" climber is now less of a concern. There is over 25,000 square feet of ASTM F-1292 compliant poured-in-place rubber granule safety surfacing.

BCI Burke of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin manufactured the majority of the play component structures delivered to the site. Founded in 1920, BCI Burke is one of the oldest commercial quality park and playground product manufacturers in the U.S. For this project, one play area for ages 5-12 includes a Burke Nucleus "Tree House," and a sound garden of musical play panels, which includes drums.


Belt swings are common enough, but this 'Tot Swing' allows an adult to crank the side plates to control the motion of the swing in lieu of physically pushing the child to get swing momentum.

The 2-5 age play area includes a 'Little Buddies' train station, a 'Voltage' structure and 'Kid Corrals' (ages 2-5). The largest play area, 12,000 sq. ft., is home to 'Nucleus' and 'Voltage' play structures, sand tables, spring toys, 'Volito Swing,' shade structures and more.

Jim and Charlie Burpee of White River Fence in Auburn, Washington installed the play equipment. As certified installers for BCI Burke and with 30 years of professional playground installations experience, they were well suited to oversee the meticulous details to ensure the equipment was installed in compliance with safety guidelines and specifications.


Seated at the table, just like the big boys, is the "wrecking crew." The 8-ft 'Tot Table' is sized for shorter legs, but weighs in at a solid 297 lbs. The punched steel PVC-coated tabletop and seats allows water to drain off, while protecting the surface from peeling, warping or cracking.

For the finishing touch, No-Fault Sport Group of Baton Rouge, Louisiana installed over 25,000 square feet of poured-in-place rubber protective surfacing. Jay Ratelle, vice president of operations for No-Fault, was on hand to provide oversight on the surfacing installation. Jay has been involved in the installation of over 13 million square feet of surfacing in seven countries.


Hang on! The weight and momentum of kids rocking back and forth engages the 'Earthquake Surfer.' Buell Recreation implemented the three age-appropriate custom play areas based on the visions of the school leadership. Doug Buell, president of Buell Recreation, has over 30 years experience in the parks and recreation industry.

Despite the challenge of having to "phase the project" so that one of three different play areas remained open for children to play throughout the playground renovations, it took only four months and was completed on time and within budget.

"The communication from start to finish was better than I ever imagined it would be," said Muckleshoot CDC staff member Justin Kettman. "This was with Buell Recreation and all of the contractors they had working on the job. Any changes, even of the slightest, were communicated immediately and with an all-inclusive approach, to ensure all were on the same page for every aspect of the project."


The 2-5 age play area also features a 'Voltage' play/slides structure, 'Kid Corrals', bucket swings, sand boxes, water play and tunneling. The panels bordering the area include musical and educational elements ("Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" panel pictured).


Muckleshoot Child Development Center (CDC) Team
Project Manager
Hainline & Associates, Inc., Seattle, Charles Hartung, AIA
Playground Design/Implementation
Buell Recreation, LLC, Portland, Oregon; Doug Buell, President
BCI Burke Premier Play Environments, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Muckleshoot CDC, Auburn, Wash.
Emiley Montes, Division Director
Justin Kettman, Teacher
Site Contracting
Greg Brock Dozing, Auburn, Wash.
White River Fence Co., Auburn, Wash.; Charlie and Jim Burpee, Owners



The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe is composed of descendants of the Duwamish and Upper Puyallup people who inhabited central Puget Sound before non-Indian settlements. The tribal name is derived from the native name for the prairie on which the Muckleshoot Reservation was established in 1857.

The Muckleshoot Child Development Center (MCDC) in Auburn, Washington opened in 2003. Auburn (pop. 70,180) is just northeast of Tacoma. This early learning school--toddlers to 12-year olds--is on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation and fully funded by tribal gaming tax dollars. The facility is on five acres of native Pacific Northwest landscaping, which plays an educational role. The land includes wetlands, flat areas for playfields and an upland forest with redwoods, cedars and other mature trees. The youngsters learn about the native plants, observe their seasonal changes and also get better acquainted with the area's wildlife.

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November 20, 2019, 1:51 pm PDT

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