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Chester County Press

Oxford Recreation Authority opens new natural playground at park

06/27/2023 12:15AM ● By Steven Hoffman

The grand-opening ceremony for the Oxford Area Recreation Authority’s (OARA) new “Down on the Farm” Natural Playground were held on June 17 at the Oxford Area Regional Park property at 260 Oaks Road in Oxford.

The intent of this playground is to provide for active, imaginative play in the outdoors. There is room to run, things to climb, and features to spark the imagination. Children of all ages as well as adults can enjoy the playground that can be simple fun for little ones, high energy play time for older children, and physical exercise for adults.  

Because so much of the playground is constructed in a large scale, parents can join their children in the activities or enjoy time in the beautiful outdoors on a nearby bench. 

The new playground is unlike any other facility in the area. Located on former farmland, the Down on the Farm theme begins with a farmhouse play house, with a silo, a raft with sail on high at the edge of the creek, and hanging cargo nets with squares that look like a patchwork quilt hanging out in the breeze. There are log steps to climb on, balance beams to walk, slate squares for hop scotch, climbing ropes and more.

Construction of the playground was made possible by a $6,500 grant from the E. Kneale Dockstader Foundation.  Wherever possible, natural and recycled materials have been used.

The original idea for the playground was to make a small area using the trunks of two large trees on the park property that had to be taken down. That changed with the donation of a full load of white pine timbers donated by Tim, Rosemarie and Miranda Nilan. 

“This really couldn’t have been done without the Nilan family,” said OARA Board president Chip Benke. 

With the timbers, the log play house and raft were created along with a Marine-style log climb. Nathen Dunn of Dunn’s Lawn Care used his equipment to dig the holes needed to install the logs where they were needed in an upright position for an oversized swing, rope climb and other features. 

Other donations included lumber from Oxford Feed and Lumber, A-1 Mulch, and Chuck Shelton of Shelton Pallets. Boy Scout Mason Fetterolf helped with the construction of benches and the installation of signage at the property as his Eagle Scout project.

OARA Board member Art Astle donated a used water tank from his farm that was cut in two to form a play silo and a large tunnel. Other board members donated countless hours of physical labor and tools to the project. The play elements were constructed over weekend workdays that spanned more than a year. Leading the effort was Benke, who provided professional guidance and helped volunteers work together to go far beyond what they might have imagined they could do. 

“I think this playground is a good kickoff for our master plan that we are seeking out. I think the community will see this and know that were serious about doing something with the rest of the parcel,” Benke said. “It’s not a cookie-cutter playground.”

The Oaks Road parcel and the new playground are separated from the main body of the Oxford Area Regional Park by Route 1. The OARA board is hoping to develop an overall plan for this and a third parcel as a guide for future development.

For more information, visit the OARA website at