The Nature PlayScape: A Hidden Gem in Beavercreek

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Now that the snow has thawed and signs of spring are sprouting up all around, many of us have the same thought in regards to our children – GET OUTSIDE AND PLAY!

The Nature PlayScape at Russ Nature Reserve is a great place to do just that.

The 90-acre property was owned by Fritz and Dolores Russ and gifted to Greene County Parks and Trails.  Besides the Nature PlayScape, the park features hiking trails, a bee apiary, a pond, a tree nursery, a prarie restoration project and a butterfly garden.

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“The Nature PlayScape is like a getaway to the country for my city kids!

…even though it is easily accessible from State Route 35 or Interstate 675.  We discovered this gem last fall.  We pretty much feel like it’s our own private playground, because every time we have gone there we are either alone or surrounded by very few people.  Probably due to the fact that it just opened in the summer of 2014 and word hasn’t spread yet! If it weren’t so close to my house I probably would have missed out on it – so glad we didn’t!

Our first trip to the PlayScape lasted maybe ten minutes.  We had packed a picnic lunch, slathered on the sunscreen, parked the van and made our way to the 4-acre playground in the woods.  As we stood in awe of the natural playground stretching out before us in all of its glory, mosquitos started eating our faces and we promptly ran right out of there, loaded up the van and traveled a few minutes up the road to the local drug store for some bug spray.

Finally better prepared, we returned and began to truly enjoy the space.  The woods were so dense, we could’ve done without the sunscreen.  The sunlight filtering through the trees was just enough to light up the scene before us.  There was not a metal piece of playground equipment in sight.  We quickly learned…

“what makes this playground unlike many others is that almost all of its features are created from natural materials–a log cabin, a tee pee, swings, a giant fallen log balance beam and even furniture are all made from logs.  You may spy a rope or a couple of giant tires, but there is nothing here that screams “playground” in the traditional sense of the word.”

What really gets the kids excited is that the space encourages open-ended play.  Don’t like the roof on the cabin?  Take it apart and build a new one.  There aren’t any limits to a child’s creativity in this space, and that’s one of the biggest reasons we love it so much!  There’s nothing quite like reconnecting with nature by enjoying some free play in the woods!

If you decide to take your family there, and I hope you do, the following is some helpful advice:

  • Don’t forget the bug spray!  Keep mosquitos and ticks away by remembering to apply your favorite bug repellant before arriving.
  • Wear old clothes and shoes.  The paths may be muddy.  And sometimes it’s dirty work building new creations in the woods.
  • Keep an eye out for poisonous plants.  I haven’t seen much poison ivy around when we were there, but its presence is always a possibility.  If you don’t know what it looks like, familiarize yourself before you go.
  • Try it in all seasons!  Spring and summer are obviously choice times to visit, but you really can’t beat the beauty of the playground in the fall as the leaves are changing colors or in the winter after a freshly fallen snow.  Trust us, we know.
  • Pack a picnic lunch and some drinks.  There are plenty of picnic tables around to feast on after a hard morning of playing.  There are not, however, water fountains or places to purchase drinks anywhere close by.  Pack plenty of drinks so the thirsty builders can stay hydrated.

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The 90-acre property was owned by Fritz and Dolores Russ and gifted to Greene County Parks and Trails.  Besides the Nature PlayScape, the park features hiking trails, a bee apiary, a pond, a tree nursery, a prairie restoration project and a butterfly garden.  The park is located at 2380 Kemp Road in Beavercreek, Ohio. Do you know of any other places like this in the Dayton area?

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With three kids and one more on the way, life in the Arp household is busy! If there's any time left in the day after homeschooling and fighting a losing battle with laundry and dishes, I like to unwind by reading a good book or making something crafty. Occasionally, I find the time to quilt (don't ask my husband about the quilt I've promised him for 2+ years!). Now blessed to be able to stay at home, I spent the seven previous years teaching first grade at a local elementary school. On the weekends you can find me spending quality time with my family, going to a movie, or hunting for good deals at auctions and garage sales! What I love about motherhood the most is being able to watch my children grow, learn and thrive every day and hearing them say those precious words--"I love you, Mommy!"

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