Connecting play and learning at Greater & Greener 2017


More than 1,000 park leaders, city planners, design professionals, and urban park advocates came to Minneapolis and Saint Paul from around the world for Greater & Greener 2017: Parks Connecting Cities, Cultures, & Generations. The five-day indoor and outdoor conference focused on the role of urban parks in creating healthy, resilient and economically competitive cities.

In addition to being a Gold Sponsor of the Conference, we hosted two events throughout the week. On Sunday, July 30, we welcomed 40 volunteers from around the world to construct a playground at Central Village Park in St. Paul. The volunteer’s finished building commercial playground equipment for kids ages 5 to 12, a Clubhouse for kids ages 2 to 5 and playground panels, which featured Too Small to Fail‘s Talking is Teaching creative content with parent-child conversation prompts to foster healthy language-rich interactions.


On Tuesday, Aug. 1, we hosted a mobile workshop that showcased the most imaginative playgrounds in Minneapolis. Attendees heard from the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board and community members about how the city encourages healthy outdoor activity, brings families together and builds community. Even more, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges joined the group at Powderhorn Park to share her commitment to cradle-to-K development and how the city is using the Talking is Teaching campaign to support early literacy in the city.



Principals Build Playground at Pennsylvania Elementary School

Last Saturday, nearly 150 principals representing the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) came together to build a playground at Stonehurst Hills Elementary School in Upper Darby, Penn. The community service day was part of the 2017 National Principals Conference held in Philadelphia.

The playground was designed for students ages 5 to 12, and features the new GeoPlex™ climbing panels as well as various ground-level climbers, overhead ladders, and bridges and balancing activities. In addition to building the school playground, principals landscaped, painted and participated in other beautification projects at the school.

As you can see from the tweets, principals had a blast during the build. This is the ninth year that we’ve partnered with NAESP to build a playground at a deserving elementary school. Learn more about the NAESP Annual Conference and save the date: July 9-11, 2018 in Orlando, Fla.

Guest Blog: City Parks Create Important Foundation for Youth


We are proud to be members of the City Parks Alliance, which supports the creation, revitalization and sustainability of urban parks and green spaces. Today, we’re happy to have Catherine Nagel, executive director at the City Parks Alliance, as our guest blogger discussing Greater & Greener 2017, which is being hosted in the Twin Cities July 29 through Aug. 2.

As more people are moving back to urban areas, the importance of close-to-home parks is increasing–perhaps most for children. For those who don’t have a backyard to play in, the local park serves myriad functions: a portal to experiencing the natural world, a community hub where families and neighbors get to know each other, and a place for outdoor learning to help build skills of all kinds through organized activities. But beyond their role in recreation and social well-being, city parks also help grow local economies, create new transportation options, combat crime, and reduce environmental impacts such as storm water runoff. Urban planners, elected officials and community advocates recognize these benefits and are taking a fresh look at parks as an important part of civic infrastructure.


Engaging youth in the outdoors can unleash their curiosity about nature, build confidence, and strengthen leadership skills, ultimately supporting careers in the sciences, recreation, conservation and elsewhere. Urban parks and park and recreation agencies are rich with opportunity to empower youth and help them succeed. At Greater & Greener 2017, our International Urban Parks Conference, we have created an entire track dedicated to the Parks and Youth Development. Speakers will focus on parks and programs that are providing close-to-home camping experiences, supporting new kinds of outdoor recreation, building literacy, strengthening advocacy around environmental and social change, and offering “green” job training and employment in the parks and recreation profession and related fields.

To help Greater & Greener, hosted by the Twin Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, have a lasting impact beyond the sessions and knowledge sharing, Landscape Structures is sponsoring a Playground Build Volunteer Day to help kick off the conference. The brand new playstructure will be built in Central Village Park in Saint Paul, Minn., giving the community a place to recreate, socialize, and for the youth in the community to be #shapedbyplay!

CPA_resizedLandscape Structures is also sponsoring The Mayors Forum at Greater & Greener, which will explore with city leaders what it means to create equitable cities and what role public spaces play in building inclusive, vibrant, and sustainable communities. Speakers include: Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. Next City’s President, CEO and Publisher Tom Dallessio will moderate. Check out the full agenda with tours, field trips and sessions on youth engagement and register now.

Urban parks are dynamic institutions that play a vital role in the social, economic and physical well-being of America’s cities and their residents. The full benefits of parks in urban communities are only now being fully understood and measured. For most Americans, their closest park is a city park, and city parks provide an essential foundation that supports the next generation to grow and thrive–from childhood to adulthood.

Netplex is what’s next in play

Earlier this year, we introduced Netplex™, a new net-based playstructure that challenges kids with an experience completely different from those offered by typical play structures. Climbing cables have been a popular playground material, and we’ve used them in many of our playstructures for more than 10 years. Now, using our patent-pending clamping system, Netplex takes a seemingly unbroken length of cable from the inner core of the playstructure to the outer posts and all the way around.

Netplex is great for community parks.

Netplex offers kids the challenge needed for healthy development into self-assured adults. The net-based playstructure challenges kids’ balance, motor planning and strategic thinking skills and gives the opportunity for graduated challenge—kids will stay low to the ground on more secure cables at first, and when they’ve mastered that they challenge themselves by going higher and engage new muscles.

Netplex is a great playstructure design for elementary school playgrounds.

Learn more about Netplex here, and see it in action in the video below.

Teaching students the importance of composting

The second annual Green Apple Day of Service, a day sponsored by the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools, took place on Friday, Sept. 27. We celebrated a day early by partnering with the MN Green Schools Coalition to help Delano Elementary School (DES) in Delano, Minn., improve their existing composting program. Throughout the week, DES’s media teacher read Compost Stew to each class and they completed a fun, classroom activity. Then on Friday, Sept. 27, we helped students compost their lunch waste, and handed out apples and goodie bags to each student and staff member. By participating in this program, the MN Green Schools Coalition awarded DES dollars to purchase new library books with an environmental theme. Check out the video of the event below, and go here to learn more about our community outreach.

Meet the professional: Bridget Stesney

Bridget Stesney is the chief operating officer at DC Department of Parks and Recreation.We are so honored to work with clients around the world, and we’re constantly learning about their fun and unique projects, obstacles they’ve faced and the innovative solutions they’ve created to overcome challenges. That’s why we’ve created this new feature that spotlights professionals. This week, meet Bridget Stesney, chief operating officer at DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR).

Q: How long have you been involved in the park and recreation industry?
A: This fall, I will celebrate six years with DPR but I have always had an interest in recreation and the outdoors. I have been a lifeguard, a counselor at summer camps, a program leader at an environmental education center, and a ranger at a Michigan State Park.

Q: What have been some of your favorite initiatives to tackle since moving into parks and recreation?
A: In October 2012, we created an initiative called Play DC. The goal of Play DC is to create places for the entire family to be outside, playing together. We’ve set out to renovate 32 playgrounds this year. Kicking off the initiative was the Rosedale Recreation Center. This playground features an inclusive playground mimicking the monuments around the National Mall.

Rosedale Recreation Center (1701 Gales Street NE)

Rosedale Recreation Center (1701 Gales Street NE)

My favorite project at the moment, and that changes daily, is Palisades Recreation Center. We opened that playground on July 4. It has a Native American-themed play structure that pays tribute to the Potomac River settlement. The playground has been packed every day since the opening!

Palisades Recreation Center (5200 Sherrier Place NW)

Palisades Recreation Center (5200 Sherrier Place NW)

We are also incorporating fitness stations in our playgrounds. In one park, we placed fitness stations and play equipment together along a fitness trail in an effort to encourage entire families to be active together.

At eight of our playgrounds, we are also installing new community gardens. This is just another amenity we hope will bring generations together, and it helps encourage healthy living.

Next year, we hope to hire “playground professionals” (the exact job title is still being worked on), whom will host play dates at playgrounds around the District, and help activate and program our parks and playgrounds.

Q: Being as passionate about parks and recreation as you are, does your career influence some of your personal hobbies?
A: Definitely. I’ve got two little boys—ages 3 and 5—so we’re always looking for new parks and playgrounds to visit. If I hear of a new playground opening nearby, we’ll go visit. And if we’re vacationing somewhere, I try to work in a few visits to playgrounds in the area. It’s fun for the boys, and also helps me in my work to see what other professionals are doing.

Aside from playground visits, we like to go kayaking and hiking, and have started venturing to baseball games. And for a little alone-time recreation, I like to run.

Learn more about DPR and their DC Play initiative here. And be sure to check back to meet more of our amazing clients.

New playground welcomes all, supports recovery

Sullivan Playgroud at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital features an inclusive design.

Last week, we celebrated the grand opening of Sullivan Playground at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. The playground is named for Minnesota Vikings Center John Sullivan, who pledged $150,000 to create the play space. Vikings teammate Chad Greenway, through his Lead the Way Foundation, and the Minnesota Vikings football organization also committed $25,000 each to bring the project to fruition.

Vikings Center John Sullivan welcomes patients and their siblings to the inclusive playground at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital.

Sullivan Playground is a safe and accessible playground for patients and their siblings to play while they’re visiting the hospital. The playground features a large concrete elephant, a concrete manta ray bench, a Permalene® giraffe panel, nature-inspired roofs and PebbleFlex® safety surfacing with custom graphics including John’s signature. Even more than the unique visual aspects, the playground’s design features take into account the patients who will use the equipment.

Children with IVs can use the Rollerslide without worrying about getting tangled in the posts.

The Rollerslide was customized to accommodate children with IVs.

Following are just a few of the inclusive components incorporated into Sullivan Playground:

  • Because some children at Amplatz must be hooked up to IVs constantly, the playground features a custom Rollerslide that allows kids to climb up and slide down without getting tangled in the equipment. This is the first commercial outdoor slide ever made to accommodate children with IVs.
  • Swaying benches provide a place for parents and children to relax and take in the fresh air.
  • A climbing net gives patients’ siblings a place to blow off steam while they develop their large motor skills.
  • A Talk Tube located in the elephant’s trunk allows kids on the ground to communicate with friends on the structure’s upper deck.
  • A shade structure provides protection for kids whose treatments make them sensitive to the sun.
  • Children using walkers or wheelchairs can navigate the playground with ease on this cushioned, porous surface.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony for Sullivan Playground at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital.

The grand opening celebration included a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring a special patient and his family. Immediately following the ceremony patients and families were able to test out the new playground.