Part of the additions to the natural playground is a treehouse built on stilts that includes a swinging bridge, firemen’s pole, and climbing rope.
by LAURA HAYES
Buried fossils, stone caves, a hand water pump, and now, a 100-foot zipline — Houston Nature Center’s (HNC) natural playground is the perfect place for kids of all ages to play.
The natural playground was completed back in 2013, and this weekend, HNC staff will open a new part of the playground that includes a 107-foot zipline for thrill seekers and a playhouse built on stilts in the canopy of trees. According to HNC Manager Sue Wiegrefe, the playground is in honor of Teresa and Dale “Banjo” Erickson — a couple who lived in Houston, Minn., since they were kids and were killed after a bale of hay rolled off a semi and struck the Ericksons’ truck, causing it to go into a ditch.
According to their obituary, the couple met when they were in high school and were said to be a perfect match. Teresa was 52 and Dale was 59 at the time of their death. Wiegrefe said one of the recipients of their estate loved coming to the natural playground and decided to donate the money in their honor. While Wiegrefe never met them, she believes that the couple would have loved the project.
The new portion of the playground was designed and constructed by volunteers who donated hundreds of hours, Wiegrefe said. “I think it’s going to be another reason to bring people back who might not have been here for a while,” she added.
The zipline is available for kids who weigh 80 to 200 pounds. Don’t worry, Wiegrefe explained the staff have already vetted and tested the zipline to assure its safety. It will only be available when there are attendants present, she said.
She believes that the zipline will increase the “excitement factor” at the park, help appeal to older children, and encourage them to enjoy being outdoors. “We want to have a very comfortable and enjoyable place for them to hang out,” Wiegrefe said.
The grand opening of the new portion of the natural playground will take place on September 17 at 4 p.m.