Project Play is the kind of project all landscape architects hope to have at some time in their careers – a project that combines a great working relationship with dedicated, visionary clients, the inclusion of children and their families in the design process and an overall project philosophy of having a deep impact for the people who will use the designs.
In 2012, the Cheyenne River Housing Authority was awarded a TECA grant from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to fund a long wished-for project – playgrounds for the children of the communities throughout the reservation – “Project Play”. The play areas would be safe, fun, durable, affordable, and located centrally in their local communities. They would be designed to combat youth diabetes and reduce childhood obesity rates as well as enhancing the mental and emotional growth of the children of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. Tallgrass Landscape Architecture was honored to be selected to design the playgrounds and assist Project Play in involving each community and their children in the design process.
“The majority of the children of the Cheyenne River Reservation do not have year round access to playgrounds in their communities; without public recreation facilities children naturally discover play in areas that can be unsafe, putting them at greater risk for accidents, injuries and exposure to other public health hazards. Play is a vital part of childhood; active children stay healthy through daily exercise and healthy children grow into healthy adults. Project Play reached out to two targeted age groups: Preschool children two to five year olds and elementary children five to 12 years old. These age groups represent an estimated 25% of the reservation population. These age groups were selected because they are in most need of safe and age appropriate recreation opportunities in their communities.” These words derived from the grant were the heart of our work with Project Play. While designing safe playgrounds and meeting the requirements of any land development project, we also strived to honor the needs and values of each community and the culture of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
Matt Vogel, CRHA Project Play coordinator, with the assistance of Tallgrass Landscape Architecture, met with 15 communities throughout the reservation and 8 neighborhoods in Eagle Butte about the type of playground experience that would best meet the needs of their children and to identify appropriate playground sites in each community. Based on the community meetings, Tallgrass developed 5 playground styles as the basis of a survey for the children of the communities who ultimately selected their favorite play experience. The dedicated people of the Cheyenne River Youth Diabetes Prevention Program brought the surveys to over 400 children to choose the playgrounds that would be designed for each community.
Tallgrass synthesized community needs, survey preferences of each child by community, special community stories and colors, site challenges, budget and age appropriateness to design 24 playgrounds unique to each community. Each of the 24 playgrounds includes elements that makes that playground special to its neighborhood or community – from signs that tell historic or cultural stories to elements of the playgrounds themselves – each community’s wishes and needs are represented in the playground. Project Play groundbreaking took place in early July 2013. The footings were hardly set before the playgrounds were covered with children! The entire project will be complete by November 1, 2013
Groundbreaking ceremony on July 18, 2013. In attendence were Kevin Keckler, Sr., Tribal Chairman, council, council, representatives from Cheyenne River Housing Authority (Sharon Vogel, Excecutive Director is seen with the kids under the umbrella above)
Many partners were involved in bringing Project Play to fruition: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Housing Authority, TECA Office, Youth Diabetes Program, Cultural Preservation, Tribal Ventures, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks and the children and community members of the Cheyenne River Reservation.
Playground manufacturer, design and installation team: Miracle Recreation, Crouch Recreation, Dostel Construction and Good River Construction.
Special thanks to Sharon Vogel, Executive Director, Cheyenne River Housing Authority, Terry Pearman, Director of Development and Project Director, Cheyenne River Housing Authority, and Matt Vogel, project coordinator for Project Play, Cheyenne River Housing Authority.
Habitat Community Build in Eagle Butte.