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Scale and balance

Centennial Park’s innovative new playground opens
Six-year-olds Kinsley Yoder and Olivia Stotlar walk a balance beam at the brand-new climbing playground of North Liberty’s Centennial Park, installed the week of July 23. Made by ID Sculpture out of Gunnison, Colo., the simulated rock and wood structures use a digitally fabricated armature encapsulated with a specially formulated shell of glass fiber reinforced concrete. (photo by Cale Stelken)

NORTH LIBERTY– Centennial Park’s new climbing playground was open for its first whole week Monday, July 30, and there’s been no shortage of kids eager to try their hand at scaling its unique features.
The new play area is located west of the conventional playground, installed less than two weeks prior, and invites kids to test their stamina and bravery as they ascend the rock-like structures. Good weather brought plenty of traffic to the park with kids scampering back and forth between the conventional and climbing playgrounds, taking advantage of the rapid introduction of recreational options at Centennial Park.
Unique to the Corridor, North Liberty’s new climbing playground stands out both visually and functionally in its mimicry of natural settings. With a concrete trail cutting through its center, the north side contains smaller features more easily accessible to younger kids looking to test their balance and coordination. This includes stumps, log balance beams, an elastic net and a “Tree of Life” vine. To the south are five large “performance boulders” suitable for older kids and adults to simulate rock climbing. The pieces are inspired by geological formations of the American Southwest, including the 10-foot-tall Pagosa boulder and Moab arch. Made by ID Sculpture out of Gunnison, Colo., the simulated rock structures use a digitally fabricated armature encapsulated with a specially formulated shell of glass fiber reinforced concrete. Having successfully scaled the tallest feature in the playground, families and friends can enjoy a view from a slanted perch straight out of The Lion King.
North Liberty’s Parks Director Guy Goldsmith said he was inspired to bring the concept to the North Liberty after a family trip to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I just wanted to bring something back that was a little more unique to the area,” said Goldsmith. “You don’t see this in this area too much, and I know climbing is very popular.”
The new play area was installed during the week of July 23. As opposed to the rubberized surfacing of the conventional playground, a 12-inch layer of engineered wood fiber provides a foundation for the new climbing installations. Goldsmith said while the installation required a lot of prep work, it was quicker and easier to assemble than the conventional playground, with one day to install the pieces and a second to set the concrete. In comparison to the $200,000 conventional playground, the innovative new climbing playground comes at a slightly higher price tag of approximately $266,000.
As for Centennial Park’s not-too-distant future, more play features are in store, including a small playground for young kids, also known as a “tot lot,” similar to that of Penn Meadows Park. A road, splash pad and multiple common shelters will also be installed. The current fiscal year provides room for the city to hire a consultant to fundraise for a climate-controlled shelter and amphitheater to be constructed between the two main playgrounds in the next few years.
While Goldsmith is eager to continue developing Centennial Park, he says it will be up to the city council to prioritize what comes next for North Liberty’s largest public park.