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May 19, 2016

Playground open at Northwest Trek

Photo from Northwest Trek [enlarge]
The half-acre playground is one of the state's largest outdoor play areas.

Kids have been running wild since Northwest Trek Wildlife Park last month opened its $1.9 million nature-themed playground.

Opening day of Kids' Trek helped set an attendance record for the park, according to a news release.

Northwest Trek says the half-acre playground is one of the largest outdoor play areas in the state. It is just inside the main gate of the park at 11610 Trek Drive E. in Eatonville.

The nature theme of the playground begins at its 12-foot-tall entry sign, which was made from gnarled cedar logs with lettering crafted out of madrone branches. Landscapers salvaged plants that were removed from the site — including more than 600 sword ferns — and replanted them around the playground. In all, there are more than 90 different plant species around the play area.

Northwest Trek even found a use for diseased trees from its 435-acre free-roaming area: a local mill turned them into the 60 benches that line the playground. Root wads were also collected and reinforced with shotcrete to form a root wad cave for kids to explore.

One of the main attractions of the playground is its 20-foot-tall hollowed out western red cedar trunk that has climbing nets inside. It was created with shotcrete and finished with realistic charring that harks back to a forest fire that swept through the area in 1924.

A 2-inch-deep stream meanders for 100 feet on one side the playground, travels under a faux beaver dam made of tumbled branches and then cycles back underground to its head. Rocks in the stream came from Northwest Trek's grounds.

Kids are also enjoying 4- and 7-foot-high weeping willow tunnels, slides, a simulated eagle nest, giant log stepping stones, two scaled-down log cabins, animal sculptures and a “construction area” with wet sand for sculpting. Birthday parties and other events are held at a new picnic shelter.

MIG of Berkeley, California, was the architect and Lake Tapps Construction was the contractor. Subcontractor Turnstone Construction of Seattle applied shotcrete to create the playground's realistic-looking features.

About three-quarters of the project cost was raised through the Northwest Trek Foundation, grants and donations. Another $325,000 came from a Metro Parks Tacoma bond approved by voters in 2014.

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