Waterfall among features proposed at West Park

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As Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation officials worked to redesign the playground and sprayground at West Park, they asked for feedback from its top users: elementary school children.

Several of their suggestions were incorporated into a design plan approved by the Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation board at its Jan. 14 meeting.

The design better integrates the playground and sprayground and creates a central node where parents can see multiple features of the park at the same time. It includes four areas: an upland forest play area for 5 to 12 year olds; a mounds and mushrooms play area with integrated trampoline pits; a prairie-themed play area for 2 to 5 year olds with climbers, spinners and swings; and a ravine water play area.

“Think of this almost like three-dimensional chess,” said Gregg Calpino, principal landscape architect at SmithGroup. “(The different areas) really start to stack within each other.”

One of the elementary students’ favorite elements was a waterfall, which is expected to be built as part of the ravine play area. Other elements could include a bridge, boulders, fog and spray cannons.

“It takes the same spirit of the creek you have in the current sprayground and takes it to the next level,” Calpino said.

Plans also include removing the roundabout inside the park and narrowing the roadway to make room for 50 additional parking spaces. A family changing area will be added to the existing restroom facility, which will get upgrades of its own. A zip line and roundabout at the entrance of the park may be added at a later date.

The existing playground and sprayground are planned to be closed beginning this spring with construction lasting into 2021. The Groves, an area of West Park recently completed, will remain open.

The new playground will be built in the area of the current one, but the sprayground will be relocated. The current sprayground space could be used as an outdoor classroom or picnic area, Calpino said.

“It’s an added benefit by subtracting something out,” Calpino said.

Before the unanimous vote in support of the project, board member Joshua Kirsh said he’d like to consider adding a mid-block crossing on 116th Street, edible landscaping to teach children about where food comes from and a natural pool to provide a place for children to safely enter the water.

“Kids get a real kick out of it when they’re in real nature,” Kirsh said.

The $4.6 million project is funded through the Clay Township Impact Program. Announced in 2019, the township is providing $60 million for upgrades throughout the Carmel, including renovations at several parks, a new building to house the Carmel Fire Dept. administration offices and a fieldhouse at the Carmel Dads’ Club’s Mark Badger Memorial park.

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