When community members saw an opportunity to recapture one of Lexington’s oldest gathering spaces, Castlewood Park, they called on Gresham Smith. In an effort to build on their grassroots momentum, our landscape architects helped nonprofit North Limestone Community Development Corporation (NoLi CDC) secure grant funding for their proposal to plan, design and build Plant & Play—a new nature play environment and garden that will harness the site’s promising potential. Our team’s design helps bring this local asset to life, providing children with an accessible place to play while reconnecting the community to nature.

Client

North Limestone Development Corporation (NoLi CDC)

City

Lexington, KY

Accolades

Showcase

1

acre playscape

3

community design workshops

1,000+

opportunities for active & creative play

Playing on Their Own Terms

Playing on Their Own Terms

Over recent years, pushback against traditional playgrounds and stationary equipment such as slides, swings and teeter-totters has grown considerably, with new research supporting the importance of free play. We helped craft a project narrative and conceptual vision for the south end of Castlewood Park that creates an adventure playscape focused on free play, allowing children to choose how they interact with the space—whether it’s climbing to new heights or simply getting lost within a safe space.
Not Your Typical Playground

Not Your Typical Playground

Our project approach led us to collaborate and lead multiple open studios, receiving input from community stakeholders and Arlington Elementary School students on activities they would like to see in the new playscape. These efforts allowed us to develop an exciting alternative to typical post-and-platform playground structures that will challenge children to problem-solve, think creatively and interact while climbing, running, jumping, crawling and exploring the park.
An Old & New Way to Play

An Old & New Way to Play

Remember when playing outside in nature was simply a part of the everyday childhood experience? Plant & Play’s amenities and opportunities allow children to engage in play in both old and new ways. These include a free-play rain garden, a climbing tree, earthwork mounds, a rock island, an interactive mystic maze and an obstacle course that encourages children to challenge themselves as they traverse from stump to stump and walk the plank.
Unifying the Neighborhood

Unifying the Neighborhood

Plant & Play represents an opportunity to bring a diverse community together with the common goal of connecting children to nature, no matter their background. The natural playscape and maintained garden can be enjoyed by all members of the community, including neighbors of all ages and abilities.
A Great Teaching Opportunity

A Great Teaching Opportunity

As the site is situated in a lower point of the park, our plan promotes stormwater quality practices in a unique and interactive way. By designing bioswales and rain gardens to capture and filter heavy rain events in the space, these systems can incorporate educational signage and activities centered around filtration and plant materials as well as the insects and animals that share this natural local habitat.
Learning to Lead & Follow

Learning to Lead & Follow

Creating a new front yard for children, Plant & Play sets a precedent for the way the city of Lexington approaches play. By breaking the norms and allowing users to create their own activities, this new nature play environment and garden provides endless opportunities for social and educational interactions that can help children work with others in a new format, discover how to communicate as a team, and perhaps most importantly, learn to lead as well as follow.

Project Contact

Our team is committed to improving the places we call home.

Bring genuine ingenuity to your community.

Louis R. Johnson, PLA, ASLA
Louis R. Johnson, PLA, ASLA
Urban Designer