Westminster city officials hope to start construction this fall on the first part of a three-phase $9.15 million project at Westminster Station.
The first phase of Westminster Station Park will be a nature playground costing about $3.71 …
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Westminster city officials hope to start construction this fall on the first part of a three-phase $9.15 million project at Westminster Station.The first phase of Westminster Station Park will be a nature playground costing about $3.71 million.“It’s an outdoor area for kids to play, but it’s made from natural materials — trees, stumps, boulders,” said Nicole Ankeney, a landscape architect for the city of Westminster overseeing the Westminster Station Park project. “So that’s instead of your standard plastic and metal playground equipment.”She said research shows that children’s behavior and schoolwork improve when they’re exposed to nature because it engages all five senses and enhances physical play. It also encourages creative play, engages critical thinking skills and improves emotional well-being, according to Ankeney.“The intention of nature play is you have a lot of different options and variety for play,” Ankeney explained. “With the standard playground equipment … it’s usually a fairly straightforward process: you climb the stairs or the ramp up to the top, down the slide, you may use the monkey bars, but it’s fairly prescriptive. Once the kids have been through it a few times, there’s not as much creativity. With the nature play, they can climb on this any number of ways and really create their own games with it.”Ankeney is optimistic construction on the first phase will begin this fall with the park ready to open in the spring. She said if funding were secure for the entire project, including second and third phases, would be complete in four to five years to fully develop the 37-acre park from Lowell Boulevard to Federal Boulevard.She said the city plans to use as many natural and native materials as possible, including some of the trees that were removed from the area for construction.Off-trail funThe landscape grade will be built up to create a “mountain” with boulders, ropes and timbers for children to climb. There will also be a series of treehouses connected by bridges — all handicapped-accessible — that wind to the top of the hill. That would all be included in the first phase, finished early in 2018.There will also be a sandbox area and treated water for children to play in. Another feature will include an area with cut-up sticks, logs and other loose parts for sensory play.“Much like the sand and the water, the key here is that the kids can manipulate it,” Ankeney said. “In this day and age, kids are growing up in a digital world. We’re also taught in schools you’re a human and you’re harmful to the environment: stay on the trail, don’t touch anything. The point here is that we’re letting kids play in nature. If kids don’t play in nature, they don’t learn to respect it and they will never growing up having that same stewardship.”The nature playground will be near Lowell Boulevard on the west side of the park that runs along Little Dry Creek adjacent to the commuter rail station.The city plans to build the park in phases starting on the west side and moving east through the park to Federal Boulevard.Sun terrace, overlookThe next phase includes an overlook and sun terrace, trail upgrades, event amenities like a stage area and pavilion, transit district improvements, public art and xeric garden totaling nearly $2.75 million.The event space will be on the opposite side of the creek from the nature playground and will included a series of terraces with turf grass on the flat areas and native species of grass on the slopes.“It’s almost a reverse amphitheater,” Ankeney said. “Instead of being sunken it’s almost kind of popped up.”There will be an overlook pavilion at the top of the event space, also embedded into the grade.“Of course, from that overlook you can see a fantastic view of the Front Range,” Ankeney said.Farther to the east is Westminster Station. The city wants to build steps from the station into the park — dubbed the “Westminster Steps” with the Spanish Steps in Rome as inspiration.“So we wanted to make it a little bit of a grand entrance into the park,” Ankeney said.There will be a large piece of art to be determined as a focal point along with potential other art projects in this section of the park.Funding has not been secured for this second phase.Fishing in the futureThe final phase will include a lake pavilion and fishing pier.“The intent with the lake pavilion is that it’s really kind of embedded into the grade so that if you are standing on top of the station it’s not your standard, catalog pavilion … it has a seamless appearance to it,” Ankeney said.The total cost is estimated at $2.68 million. Funding has not been secured for this phase.FundingThe city has committed a little more than $1.25 million from its capital improvement program fund in the 2016 budget and $1.5 million from its 2017 budget with another $300,000 specifically for the xeric garden.The city also received a $350,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant, a $506,000 grant from Adams County Open Space and the Westminster Legacy Foundation has pledged $200,000 in donations. That brings the total available to more than $4.11 million.Laura Mulkey, development coordinator for Westminster Legacy Foundation, said the park fits the foundation’s top priorities, which were recently discussed by the board of directors.“They decided they will always maintain a portion of their focus supporting local nonprofits who are working to make the community better,” Mulkey said. “But they also decided that as an organization, sustainability and the environment and kids were really important to them. So as a group they looked at this nature playground project and felt it was the perfect match for the foundation.”She said the goal is to raise $200,000 by the end of the year through grants, board challenges, individual donations and corporate gifts.“We think that in the station park area a lot of the local businesses are going to be very interested in investing in this project because, gosh, the value that it brings to that part of the community is huge,” Mulkey said.
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