Designing Montbello Open Space Park Together

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Written by ELK Media Specialist Intern, Kaitlyn Kraybill-Voth

I spent Monday afternoon bending green pipe cleaners around a wooden stick to twist into the semblance of a tree, I sculpted clay and cut twine to hang a doll sized swing to fuzzy wire branches, I cut little people from soft foam to sit on the swing and climb on the trunk. Across from me, smooth stones scattered into pathways and more pipe cleaners wove together, rising into benches and garden beds. And yes, this glorious arts and crafts table was surrounded by adults.

Members of the Montbello community, architects, and ELK students and employees all took part in this whimsical rendering of the Montbello Open Space Park at a community meeting aimed at bringing design dreams to life.

The meeting began with a short talk by architects from the firms Mundus Bishop and Anderson Hallas. They explained that as the builders of the land, it was very important to them to incorporate the needs, ideas, and dreams of the people who would actually be using the space in its completion. The architects handed out ‘wish cards’ to everyone to record their favorite childhood play structures in nature and jot down features they hoped the land would include. They also urged us to grab inspiration from tables covered in photos of landscapes and a range of colorful building materials.

When it was time to share, some spoke about giant boulders for kids to climb on that would become mountains scraping the clouds in their minds. Others imagined circular tree groves that would morph so easily into secret fairy woods – these kinds of natural monuments were felt to catalyze creative play and kinship with nature. A storm drain pond with stepping stones was wished for, outdoor classrooms with tree stump seats were proposed, a pollinator garden to attract native insects was imagined in this brainstorming session. Someone even came up with the idea of a tactile path for bare feet where you’d walk through a succession of spongy moss, squishy mud, coarse sand, and smooth pebbles to name a few examples of sensory footfalls.
After each person explained their hopes, they taped their wish cards and photographs to the back wall and by the end of the meeting, it looked like a mural of design fantasies. Below them: green shingles, shiny silver grating, bricks of conglomerate stones, and translucent tiles inlaid with real flowers leaned against the wall. We are all so excited to see the land develop and grow. I think everyone already feels a little more ownership over it as there will be pieces of each person in that room woven into the completed space. Perhaps you’ll see your favorite tiling in the walls of the Education Center. Maybe a bench in a quiet shelter of trees grew from your desires. Annual murals painted atop playground boulders might have never existed without your vision.

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