By Chris Bavender
As construction of apartments, condos and businesses continue in Carmel, green space is becoming a premium. So Warren Gartner thought his church, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, could help provide a bit of nature by building a natural playground not only for the church family, but also for the community.
“In my work with the Division of Fish & Wildlife in the Dept. of Natural Resources, I was aware of the benefits of outdoor play for children. Outdoor play is shown to help with childhood obesity, ADD, ADHD and much more,” Gartner said. “Children who play outdoors regularly are healthier, more creative, better problem-solvers and generally happier than children who stay indoors. In my work, I’d helped design outdoor classrooms for schools and trained teachers and others who worked with children on ways to take lessons outdoors.”
Natural playgrounds feature items such as boulder piles and large tree trunks for climbing rather than metal swings and slides. Dedicated in late April, St. Christopher’s Natural Playground is on the northeast corner of the church property at 1402 W. Main St. and is next to a large vegetable garden and wetland.
“We have a boardwalk through the marsh and a bird blind where you can watch birds. There is a sensory garden with plants to touch, smell and see a variety of colors,” Gartner said. “We have a blue gravel river with a canoe, including paddles and life jackets, for imaginary trips. You can cross the river on stepping stones so you don’t get your feet ‘wet.’”
Guests also will find a bar to hang a tarp and make a tent and pretend to camp out, a vine tepee, a large sandbox with toys, natural building blocks and collection boxes of nature items such as shells, skulls, pinecones and more. A large picnic shelter and a fire pit also are available.
To reserve the playground for an event, call the church office at 317-846-8716.