A chorus of squeals, giggles and, yes, even some splashes filled Northwest Trek’s new playground Monday.
The $1.9 million, half-acre Kids’ Trek — one of the biggest playgrounds in the region, according to park officials — doesn’t officially open until Saturday. But a small group of South Sound families had the opportunity to test it out Monday for promotional photos and videos for Metro Parks Tacoma. Staff of The Olympian and The News Tribune were invited for a sneak peek, too.
“It’s incredible,” said Shelley Sprouffske, 38, of Rainier, as her preschool-age sons, John Paul and Alexander, played with their friends. “It’s an ideal kids’ paradise out in the outdoors.”
Kids’ Trek features:
▪ A 20-foot replica of a hollowed out cedar tree with cargo nets that kids can climb in.
▪ ADA-accessible slides and pathways.
▪ A toddler zone with mini log cabins and a sandbox.
▪ A nearly 100-foot-long stream that uses recirculated chlorinated water and cascades to a replica beaver dam.
▪ Some hidden surprises, including whimsical sculptures of a great blue heron, mountain goat and other critters; dozens of animal tracks and leaf prints embedded in the pathways; and a 16-foot-diameter “Eagles nest” play structure.
▪ Natural landscaping that features stumps and plants collected from inside Trek’s 435-acre free-roaming area and the space cleared for the playground. There’s also plenty of seating, with benches and picnic tables that were built from the park’s downed trees.
“It’s the biggest thing that Northwest Trek has provided in our 40-history,” said Alan Varsik, the park’s deputy director. “The biggest project.”
About 75 percent of the playground was built with a combination of grants and private donations, he said. In addition, $325,000 came from the 2014 Metro Parks Tacoma voter-approved bond, said Kris Sherman, a spokeswoman for Metro Parks Tacoma.
The playground was part of Northwest Trek’s 2008 master plan update, said operations and project manager Chip Heinz.
“A lot of the ideas were ours in-house and were brought through fruition with our staff working on it,” he said.
The project’s architect was MIG of Berkeley, California, and its contractor was Lake Tapps Construction.
Seattle-based Turnstone Construction was the subcontractor that did the playground’s Shotcrete work, which created its natural-looking rocks, trees and climbing areas. Take the 20-foot-tall tree trunk climber that’s 12-feet in diameter: It’s a sculpture based on a Western red cedar and features charred-like markings that help tell the story of the park’s 1924 fire.
“Everything about Kids’ Trek is designed to bring children into nature and let them experience nature and let them learn about animals and plants, and more about the world around them,” Sherman said.
Krista Simpson, 38, of Olympia, said she liked that Kids’ Trek had one entry and exit.
“You can essentially stand here and see everything,” she said, as her sons, Michael, 6, and Gabriel, 4, built a fort with large sticks in the playground.
Northwest Trek member Christine King, 63, of Eatonville said she thinks Kids’ Trek is going to be a popular destination for families.
“I love it, absolutely love it,” she said, as her 4-year-old granddaughter, Grace, played near the stream. “There is so much here that they can do, and play and experience. I would recommend it to anybody.”
If you go
What: Kids’ Trek, a new play area with slides, rope ladders, cargo nets, a sandbox, a stream and other elements.
Where: Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, 11610 Trek Drive E., Eatonville.
When: The playground’s grand opening will be 10 a.m. Saturday. After that, Kids’ Trek will be open during the park’s regular hours, which are seasonal, and are 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through June 30.
Cost: Free with admission or membership. General admission is $10.95 to $21.95 a person, with ages 2 and younger free. Discounted rates are available to military families and Pierce County residents.
Information: nwtrek.org or 360-832-6117.