Halifax's newest playground will see children climbing logs

Halifax is set to open its first all-natural playground this week, one where children can clamber over old tree trunks and climb inside a mesh and log tower.

All-natural playground set to open this week at Dingle Park

The Dingle playground is Earthscape's first project in Atlantic Canada. (Earthscape)

Halifax is set to open its first all-natural playground this week, one where children can clamber over old tree trunks and climb inside a mesh and log tower.

It comes as recent studies showing the benefits of natural play spaces have prompted more areas to put in playgrounds that favour handcrafted wooden structures over machine-made plastic equipment. 

The new recreation venue in Halifax will replace an old playground at Sir Sandford Fleming Park, an area known to locals as the Dingle.  

Youngsters will be able to get a bird's-eye view of the park when they climb up this wood and mesh tower. (MBA Landscaping)

Margaret Soley, who oversees the planners, architects, and engineers building outdoor recreation infrastructure for the city, said she's getting more requests for natural playgrounds as they become an increasingly popular trend. 

"They're reported to have many benefits to encourage more imaginative play," Soley said

In the spring, the municipality put out its first-ever request for proposals for the development of a play space where preference was given to naturalized designs. The new Dingle Park playground is the result. 

Log jams and music jams

The Dingle playground will be one of the more expensive playgrounds in Halifax. The municipality contributed $250,000 to the project and received $70,000 from the province.

One of the most interesting play structures is a mesh and log tower kids can climb up inside to get to a slide. There they will have a bird's-eye view of the park, including the Dingle Tower.

The playground will also include features such as irregular shaped hand-carved logs for climbing, and a slide accessed by running up a hill.

The new playground offers more risk than typical playgrounds. (Earthscape)

Laura Hilliard is a spokesperson for Earthscape, the award-winning Ontario design company behind the new Dingle playground. 

She said some of the structures designed for Dingle Park offer children not only more natural play, but also more risk than your typical playground equipment.

"We differentiate between risk and danger," she said of the playgrounds her company creates. "It's not that they're dangerous, it's that they offer children the opportunity to challenge themselves." 

Buzz already building

Hilliard said more challenging equipment can encourage kids to play longer because there is more to do, an idea recent research supports.

Alex Smith, a father of five in Halifax, is looking forward to the new playground — and he said he's not the only one.

Smith writes a popular blog called Playgroundology that advocates for a wider range of play opportunities for kids in public spaces.

The playground is costing more than $300,000. (Earthscape)

He said parents are showing a lot of interest in the Dingle playground on social media.

"I'm really thrilled that we're branching out and that we're trying something a bit different," he said.

"It's good for a community or a city to have a variety of different play opportunities for kids in public spaces, and we really don't have that much."

Safety inspection set for this week

The new Dingle playground has to meet Canadian Standards Association safety standards, which include measures intended to help minimize injuries resulting from falls from heights, entanglements and head entrapments. 

A final safety inspection of the playground is scheduled for Wednesday. 

If no issues arise, the new playground will be open for public use by Friday.