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Everyone outside to play

Islander Anna Bertlin, of Mercer Island, tosses a ball on a sand court at Groveland Beach Park last August. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Islander Anna Bertlin, of Mercer Island, tosses a ball on a sand court at Groveland Beach Park last August.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

The Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Department has launched an “Outdoor Play” initiative, aimed at encouraging unstructured outdoor play for children. City arborist Paul West introduced the plan at last week’s City Council meeting.

“We’re trying to figure out with educators, parents and children how to make outdoor play part of children’s lives again,” West said, citing statistics that show children spend half as much time outside today as they did 20 years ago, which is a contributing factor to childhood obesity.

The initiative will look at ways to get Island children away from the TV and computer. One proposal is to develop an “adventure playground,” which will facilitate unstructured play and environmental awareness through wooded forts, obstacle courses and other recreational set-ups. Deane’s Children’s Park, near Island Park Elementary, is being considered for the project.

“We want to make [Deane’s Children’s Park] more inviting for kids to have unstructured play. They can create fantasy worlds that would be conducive to making this their own place,” West said. The idea for an “adventure playground” follows in the footsteps of recent Parks and Recreation programs, such as “Destination Recreation,” which creates adventure games and “quests” through the trails of Pioneer Park, and “bug and mud” classes for preschoolers at Luther Burbank Park. The Parks and Recreation Department is also developing an educational work plan to encourage adults to explore the Island’s green spaces.

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