By Jan Axelson
The Northside has a new outdoor space where you can climb in a giant spider web made of rope, experience what it’s like to be on a ship rolling in the waves, create something out of logs, or try your agility on a balance beam.
Located next to Lake View Elementary School and the school’s 3-acre school forest, the half-acre nature course also has a gathering space with log bleachers, paths that wind through an oak forest and areas of woodland flowers.
The space adds to Lake View’s active outdoor classroom program and encourages using both body and mind to explore and learn. The site’s design sprang from ideas contributed by children, families and school staff. Susie Hobart, Lake View’s recently retired outdoor classroom coordinator, said that, ultimately, “the children will help determine how to use the space and will likely find brand-new uses for it.”
The project came about due to the efforts and support from Lake View staff, Groundswell Conservancy, Habitat for Humanity and developer Tom Keller. Seeing value in the site’s many large oaks and its location next to the school’s forest, Hobart contacted Groundswell for help in preserving the land.
According to Groundswell’s Executive Director Jim Welsh, “When Susie called me about the project, I was excited by the prospect of adding to Lake View’s forest. The teachers and staff at the school have brought their curriculum outside, so this was a great opportunity for Groundswell to help strengthen kids’ connection to nature.” The project coincided with the development of adjacent land by Habitat for Humanity to create affordable housing.
Taking up the challenge, Groundswell found funding from foundations, businesses, individuals and the school district and negotiated to buy the parcel. Groundswell will donate the land to the school district with a deed restriction that forbids future development. They will continue to partner with the school to maintain the land and the nature course.
A crew from Operation Fresh Start helped clear brush and build the nature course. An Aug. 30 ribbon-cutting event was held to celebrate the project and recognize the donors.
The paths and nature course are available for all to enjoy. From Northport Drive, take North Sherman Avenue north, turn right onto Tennyson Lane, then left onto Eliot Lane. Access the paths from the north end of Eliot.