by Abigail Elsmo-Siebert

Research conducted in 2012 presented the correlation between the environment of a play area and the physical health of the children in that community. The research revealed that traditional playground design methods that were mostly composed of brightly colored metal equipment were related to a higher overweight and obesity percentage rather that areas that incorporated the natural environment and landscape Designing an area of play for the community to interact with one another through appreciation of the land and environment surrounding them needs to encourage public participation whenever possible. This approach is called Natural Playscape, and is being used throughout the nation to help alleviate the obesity rates by allowing societies the chance to utilize these spaces. snailscrossingweb

The community in the heart of Riverwest is coming together to take part in the new initiative known as MKE Plays. Milwaukee’s Common Council conceived this idea; which “aims to transform twelve of the city’s most deteriorated playgrounds into models for local collaboration and renovation.” One of the twelve parks chosen was Snails Crossing located on the corner of Bremen and Burleigh. This specific park is possible due to the extensive effort and work that thousands of volunteers and community members have done throughout the years. Snails Crossing is different than other parks chosen because it is well kept, has equipment, and the community’s support; however, there is room for improvement. The Program Coordinator, Joe Kaltenberg of MKE Plays is dedicated to working with community members so that funds spent on this project are beneficial to that specific community. By presenting the opportunities for improvement, it allows the members to “develop a sense of ownership in the community and get to know each other”. By building off existing ideas to revitalize and enhance the playground, the emphasis on community involvement is highly essential. There are basic improvements that are necessary since the last time it was renovated was twelve years ago. ADA accessibility, adequate lighting, and the planting of new forestry are just a few changes that will take place during this 32-week process. Involving the community to create a usable space for that community to use will create a successful self-sustaining society.

The Program Coordinator, Joe Kaltenberg, is very enthusiastic to begin working with the community to eventually use Snails Crossing as an example of the neighborhoods coming together to bring pride to their city by working positively with one another. The future of Snails Crossing is in our hands; I urge residents to come to the meeting in January. The focus of this meeting will be the second phase of the program. The design strategy and ideas will be discussed then, this is a chance for residents who utilize the park to let their voices be heard, a chance to create a centerpiece for the community to strengthen the overall longevity of the park and community surrounding it. This initiative is a step in the right direction, and is the opportunity for this community to come together and share their input regarding the park to the public.

The public is again invited to comment on plans for Snail’s Crossing on Tuesday, January 19 – Tuesday, February 2 -at 6:30 PM at Gordon Park Pavilion. The goal is to look more specifically at park features at these meetings.