Audubon Greenwich unveils Nature Play Trail

On June 18 Audubon Greenwich will be celebrating the grand opening of its newest amenity, the Nature Play Trail, an interactive playscape — the first of its kind in Greenwich. The trail is a safe space for outdoor activities filled with native plants, birds, and other local wildlife. Unlike a playground, Audubon’s Nature Play Trail is a wheelchair and stroller accessible trail that has “islands” along the way where children can engage in “nature play” — interacting primarily with natural features of the landscape to learn, discover, and explore.

A child plays on the Nature Play Trail.

A child plays on the Nature Play Trail.

The six activity stations along the trail include a sensory garden, toddler circle/“little kids” climbing area, rain garden, hand pump and water play station, flowing creek and pond, and a “big kids” discovery area. These interactive spaces offer children the chance to climb, slide, splash, build, play outdoor instruments, learn about water flow through a rain garden, explore critters in a flowing creek, or simply observe the beauty of their surroundings.

On a formerly inaccessible hillside that had become overrun by non-native invasive plants but is now being landscaped with bird-friendly natives, Audubon’s nature-inspired, child-driven Nature Play Trail will foster creative play among visitors of all ages and abilities as they make discoveries and interact with their environment.

Research shows that children who play in natural settings play in more diverse, imaginative, and creative ways and show improved language and collaboration skills. Unlike single-use play equipment, Audubon Greenwich’s Nature Play Trail offers endless opportunities for multisensory exploration, as children learn about the natural world in a wide variety of ways. The Nature Play Trail is the first section of a one-mile long accessible trail that is being established at the sanctuary that extends beyond the Nature Play Trail down to the Teaching Pond, through a section of forest, around the historic apple orchard, and through a meadow.

The larger accessible trail will be open for wheelchair use beginning on the weekend of Audubon’s Fall Festival and Hawk Watch — Sept. 17-18. “We’ve created this trail to provide opportunities for learning and exploration for our youngest visitors, to make our sanctuary accessible for people of all abilities, and to improve habitat for birds,” explains Michelle Frankel, Audubon Greenwich Center Director. “We envision the Nature Play Trail as a kind of “gateway” experience that will inspire children to have more immersive nature experiences as they grow. The trail is also being designed with birds in mind, landscaped with native plants that will provide much-needed food for migrating birds as they stop to rest and refuel along their journey.”

Audubon is offering naming opportunities for different sections of the trail to support the cost of planting native shrubs throughout the trail. The establishment of the accessible trail was made possible by a gift from Wheels in the Woods, and was created by Fairfield Home and Garden. The bird-friendly landscape design was provided pro-bono by Conte and Conte Inc. The Nature Play elements were funded by members of the Audubon Greenwich Board of Directors.

The unveiling of the new trail will take place on Saturday, June 18, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (rain date is June 25). Beginning at 10 a.m. with a live birds of prey flight demonstration provided by Talons. A Bird of Prey Experience, the day will continue with a ribbon cutting at 10:30 a.m. to officially open the new Nature Play Trail. Visitors can then traverse the trail and surrounding woodlands and visit the beautiful Teaching Pond and historic apple orchard. Kids of all ages can explore the trail’s activity stations and take guided nature walks along the new trail, creating their own ways to play. A coffee truck will be on site, with a range of coffee drinks and snacks available for purchase.

This free event is open to the public and is stroller and wheelchair accessible.

For more information, contact Michelle Frankel at 203-930-1350 or [email protected]

A child on the Nature Play Trail.

A child on the Nature Play Trail.

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