If you go to AMC’s Highland Center at Crawford Notch next summer, you’ll find a new attraction, created especially for families and children — a natural playground. The same landscape architects who helped design the center are now working with AMC to create a natural “play scape” on the lawn to the west of the lodge’s main entrance.
Adding a natural playground to the Highland Center facility may seem unnecessary, given the stunning natural setting of Crawford Notch, but it is actually a logical outgrowth of AMC’s updated strategic mission, Vision 2020, according to Paul Cunha, AMC vice president for outdoor programs centers. “A large component [of the new mission] is helping kids and families get outdoors,” says Cunha. In the seven years since the center at Crawford Notch first opened, guests and AMC staff have asked for more on-site play opportunities for children. Cunha and others have noticed that children are drawn to the large boulders that are already part of the existing south-lawn landscaping. “Those rocks are magnets for kids,” he says.
A miniature mountain, 90 feet wide and 26 feet high — “big enough to be exciting,” says Cunha — will anchor the nature-based play space. Children will be able to climb rock staircases to the “summit” of the mountain, which will be built using locally quarried rock, or stop at an intermediate platform. An overhang on one side of the mountain will shelter a protected play space and materials that children can use to construct lean-tos and other structures. The plan created by Halvorson Design Partners also includes a “bear’s den,” swinging bridge, tunnel, and rock garden for younger children.
Cunha believes that the play scape will lend itself well to the center’s programs. Staff might use the mountain’s intermediate platform as a nighttime “observatory” for star-gazing, for example, or as part of family camp experiences. Cunha has heard from enough parents over the years to know that staffed play times before and after dinner will especially appeal to parents who are tired at the end of a long day, but whose kids still have plenty of energy to burn.
Kids bouldering on rocks outside the Highland Center. Photo credit: Herb Swanson, courtesy of AMC.
“Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.