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Old Posted Apr 27, 2010, 11:14 AM
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New playground is a 'natural' fit

New playground is a 'natural' fit
Local company has innovative plans for Dundas site

April 27, 2010
Danielle Wong
The Hamilton Spectator

Dundas could have a novel playground equipped with bongo drums, a log amphitheatre and an art wall as early as the end of next month.

The city recently approved funding to build a natural playground on a former Shell Canada property beside the Dundas Lions Memorial Community Centre on King Street West.

The playground will be the first of its kind in Hamilton. Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, the locally based company the city approached to design and build the unique project, focuses on connecting children with nature by creating playgrounds resembling ravines instead of steel jungles.

"Our version of a play structure is a boulder that the kids can climb on ... Instead of a bench made out of concrete and steel and plastic wood, we'll have a bench made of white oak," the company's president and lead designer Adam Bienenstock said.

Plans for the playground feature log benches and activity tables, outdoor instruments, an art mural, and an "amphitheatre" of open space and log benches for ad-hoc plays or classroom activities.

While a typical playground centres around one piece of equipment, this site would take elements related to that apparatus -- such as creative play and gross motor skills -- and scatter it around, said Cynthia Graham, the city's project manager and public works landscape architect.

Councillor Russ Powers said the playground will support the pre-school and afterschool programs the Dundas community centre already runs. Currently, there isn't a playground in that neighbourhood at all, he said.

The city could have resorted to the traditional playground model, Powers said, but Bienenstock projects are recognized for their functionality and for being customized to the neighbourhood.

"This is the neighbourhood's park," Powers said, adding two community meetings were held in February and March to involve citizens with the design.

The materials used to build the playground will also be local. Bienenstock's philosophy is the "100-mile diet of playgrounds," where materials are sourced within a 100-mile radius.

Bienenstock, who grew up and lives in Dundas, said he's hoping to have the site built by May 29, his four-year-old son's birthday.

"This time, it's very personal. This is not only my back yard; this is my kids' park."

The project's costs are estimated at a total of $300,000, with $100,000 specifically for the playground itself.

The city acquired the quarter-acre, former Shell Canada property in December 2009 for $125, 000 after a long process to remediate the site. Shell Canada discovered hydrocarbon contamination under the closed gas station in 2006 and retreated on a conditional sale to a Dundas physiotherapy clinic owner.

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