See What's Growing at County Farm Park
Changes Sure to Please Even Our Youngest Visitors!
Nearly four years ago, the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission developed the first phase of a farm and garden themed playground and expanded Project Grow gardens. Features in the playground included a windmill, playscape, and net climber; while Project Grow received new raised planter boxes, accessible table planters, and small storage sheds. These amenities have overwhelmingly attracted many park visitors–including various gardeners; school and daycare groups; and the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center Summer Camp program participants. Starting this spring, the Commission will implement construction of Phase II improvements at County Farm Park to enhance your visit. The new features will complement the existing amenities built upon the farm and garden theme design of Phase I.
One of the first objectives is to define and enhance the park’s eastern pedestrian entry and improve wayfinding for patrons. A proposed gateway arch will be located along a new accessible asphalt entry path. The new arch will incorporate several design elements from existing structures around County Farm Park. Its overall shape is borrowed from the Medford Pavilion, while the frame colors match trim work on the adjacent picnic pavilion and park buildings. Additionally, stone accents on the columns will complement those on the Administrative Office building. In the area around the gateway, planting beds, boulder retaining walls, and special surface treatments will provide help to define the point of entry.
The entry path will also be realigned, creating a more prominent appearance. The old limestone path will be removed, regraded, and converted to a vegetative bio-swale to absorb or transport runoff-water to the small stormwater detention area located north of the existing parking lot. The limestone materials removed from the old path will be recycled as base aggregate for an existing maintenance lane.
Continuing down the path at the convergence of pathways near the playground, a new informational kiosk will be constructed providing wayfinding maps and signage. The kiosk will also include a sign panel about the site’s history, park program postings, and general park rules. The various paths leading to the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center, Discovery Garden planters, playground, and picnic pavilion will all be paved with asphalt to increase accessibility. Trails throughout the park will remain a gravel surface.
The existing farm playground is a popular attraction; however, it lacks amenities for younger children. The principle focus of the second phase playground improvements is to provide play opportunities for children ages 2 to 5. New amenities will include a tractor-style play structure with an active piston panel; bumblebee and horse-figure spring riders; a straw bale climber unit–which is actually constructed of a coated material creating a straw-like appearance; and a playhouse, similar to the life size sheds at the Project Grow Discovery Gardens. The entire play surface area around these new elements will be covered by a “turf type” safety surfacing, which tends to be more suitable for the crawling activities of younger visitors.
Another improvement to the play area will help cool youngsters while they play. Because this area is often exposed to full sunlight, two large shade structures will be installed to partially cast shade on the play features. Each canopy has a spread of nearly 25 feet that will make much of the play area comfortable even on the hottest days. Visually, these features will complement the garden environment—one structure is shaped like a flower and the other a butterfly. A crescent shaped concrete wall will help define the space and allow for seating.
You may remember several cast bronze pigs—located within the existing play area—were removed a few years ago. The “mama” pig and her “piglets” will join “papa” pig inside a new wire-mesh fence enclosure adjacent to one of the garden sheds, creating a “pig pen”. This design will allow visitors to experience the pigs, but limits actual contact.
We appreciate your patience as we rework the area to bring you these features later this summer. With so many new things “growing” at the farm, we hope you come to visit often!
Jeff Dehring, Park Planner