Aldersgate has adopted a long-range plan to landscape its 1.9 acres of green space. The plan reflects four goals: to provide attractive grounds, benefit the neighborhood, benefit the environment, and offer solace through nature.  More information about the landscaping plan is available at:   

A major renovation of its playground is also part of the long-range plan. Both the landscaping and the playground are intended to serve the community. 

Public streets border three sides of the property, providing views and easy access from the neighborhood. The diagram below shows the relationship of the proposed playground to other elements of the overall plan.  Major features include an embankment slide, sandpit, swing set, and preschool play area. 

Playground Conceptual Layout

The current playground is deficient with limited play opportunities.  A new playground is important if Aldersgate wants to communicate a positive message to families with children. 

A well-designed playground would also serve families in the neighborhood. A large number of households in the square mile bounded by 70th, 84th, A Street, and Van Dorn Street live closer to 84th and South Streets than the city playground near 77th and A Streets. A small neighborhood park at Aldersgate could serve them well. 

Three steps would communicate that the neighbors are welcome. One is signage with a clear message that public use is expected. A short list of basic rules can share space on the sign. Second, paths should lead from public sidewalks on South Street and Pinedale Avenue to the playground.  Finally, new equipment and expanded opportunities for play are needed.

Natural Playgrounds
There is a movement called natural playgrounds that promotes a different approach for engaging children in outdoor fun. As the name implies, natural playgrounds emphasize incorporating nature in the design and construction of play environments. Quoting one reference, “natural playground spaces tend to be custom solutions that emphasize raw materials of wood, stone, and sand in combination with shaped earth forms. They often include elements of water play, and have more emphasis on planted material than a typical playground. They may feature elements for learning about the natural world, and the boundary between ‘playground’ and ‘garden’ or ‘nature trail’ is blurred.” ( Some examples are below.

Natural playgrounds are more popular with children.  “All 6,000 children we’ve interviewed want these very same, natural play opportunities. Offer them a choice, and every time they’ll choose Natural Playgrounds over equipment playgrounds.” (

Child development research also favors naturalized playgrounds.  “A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the creation of nature-rich urban environments, including schoolyards with natural play spaces and gardens, can help improve physical and mental health, cognitive skills, creativity, and according to new longitudinal studies, standardized test scores.”  (Children & Nature Network, News Release, July 7, 2016.) 

A playground that combines natural components and commercial playground equipment is also a possibility.  Swings and slides remain popular, and some of the manufactured play equipment looks fun.  The final design should utilize natural features at Aldersgate, like the slopes, swales and plantings, while offering a range of play opportunities.  An embankment slide built into the steep slope on the south lawn is one example.

Eventually, pathways will lead from South Street and Pinedale Avenue to the new playground.  When built, the will be designed to meet accessibility requirements in terms of surface material, width, and slope.  They will provide easy access to the playground and much of the landscaped area for people with mobility challenges – and for parents pushing strollers.   
Although exempt from federal accessibility guidelines (see “Accessible Play Areas, A Summary of Accessibility Guidelines for Play Areas,” by U.S. Access Board, October 2005), Aldersgate will strive to follow accessibility guidelines in the final design of the playground.   Besides the paths leading to the playground, key considerations include layout of play areas, access to them, playground surfaces, and choice of equipment and activities.

“Balancing Safety and Challenge in Playground Design” is the title of one resource on playground safety (published by Landscape Structures).  Children learn and grow through physical and cognitive challenges. A well-designed playground will provide challenging play opportunities while minimizing safety hazards.  Key considerations include safe surfaces; adequate drainage; general hazards such as any sharp points, hazardous protrusions, clothing entanglement hazards, and trip hazards; and general upkeep.   

Some of the best childhood memories involve playing with water: wading in a stream, skipping stones on a lake, damming up the storm runoff rushing next to the curb, or just creating a moat in the sandbox.  

There are limited but important play opportunities with water in the proposed playground.  During significant rain events, the swale that drains an acre of land and much of the roof will carry several inches of water.  The rain garden at the end of the swale will remain swampy for as much as a day after a large rain.  

One simple idea for adding water to the mix is positioning a 50-gallon plastic barrel near the playground.  Filled periodically by a water hose, its contents would be available for sand play or washing up.

Costs add up quickly, especially with safe surfaces.  A $35,000 playground would include a double swing set ($5,000), toddler playset ($7,000), sandpit and climbing apparatus ($7,000), embankment slide ($6,000), and paths ($10,000).  These are rough estimates.  Depending on the project, outside funding may be available, but is not certain.  Several philanthropic and corporate foundations offer grants that are worth exploring, but are generally geared toward schools or underserved neighborhoods.  Online fundraising is also a possibility.

Latest News
Be sure to check out the Latest News page for updates on this project!

Questions?  Comments?
For more information or to offer comments and suggestions, please leave a message on our Contact Us page:  
We welcome your ideas.   

Want to Help?
We need and welcome your help, whether it is offering ideas, volunteering labor or making financial contributions.   If you have a suggestion, send an email using the Contact Us page, or call the church office at 402-489-1510.  Please address donations to Aldersgate United Methodist Church at 8320 South Street, Lincoln, NE 65806.  All contributions are welcome and appreciated.

Examples of Play Environments and Equipment